Jeffrey Dean Morgan explains why the Saviors follow Negan

InterviewsThe Walking Dead

There has been a lot of attention on what Negan’s introduction means for the folks of Alexandria in season 7 of The Walking Dead, which premieres Sunday night at 9 p.m. on AMC. But what is Negan’s relationship like with his own group, the Saviors?

That’s not a rhetorical question. It’s one we actually asked the guy who plays Negan, Jeffrey Dean Morgan. And he was kind enough to answer, because that’s how these type of things tend to work — we ask a question, and then the person answers. “Yeah, it’s an odd relationship he has with the Saviors,” says Morgan. “Because a lot of them, I think, follow him purely out fear. I think that Negan has kept these people alive, certainly.”

Morgan says he has been leaning on some source material to help inform his character and why his own forces now fear him. “[Creator Robert Kirkman] just wrote kind of a preamble on Negan’s pre-apocalyptic life,” the actor says. “And he sent me like 48 pages that are sent out with the other comics, so you get to see a little bit. It was very interesting to see how Negan became Negan.”

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Jeffrey Dean Morgan on how TV Negan differs from comics

InterviewsThe Walking Dead

Jeffrey Dean Morgan has confirmed that his version of Negan in “The Walking Dead” (“TWD”) will be different from the one in the comic book series on which the AMC series is based.

Earlier this year, much was made of the fact that “The Good Wife” actor had been cast as Negan, the new main villain in AMC’s zombie apocalypse drama. Many thought that the actor was perfect for the role. But because he only debuted in the season 6 finale, viewers haven’t seen much of him yet.

In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, Morgan revealed that while the “TWD” team tries to stay true to the source material, they have also added and subtracted much to the original incarnation of the villain.

“We’ve added a lot, obviously, that’s not in the comic books with Negan,” the actor disclosed. According to Morgan, he has tried to take certain aspects of the comic book Negan — his smile, his posture — from the panels but has had to fill in the blanks about other facets of the character. The actor also said that he thinks his Negan is a bit more manic than the original.

Morgan explained how he interprets Negan for the screen, saying, “If I just make this guy manic and kind of one dimensional then I don’t have anywhere to go.”

“I try to make every scene a little bit of a rollercoaster so you don’t know,” he said. “So it’ll keep you on your toes of where Negan is, and I only have so much I can go on working on the comic book,” he added.

Meanwhile, a recent statement from “TWD” director Greg Nicotero has had fans worrying that the body count in the season 7 premiere, which picks up right where the season 6 cliffhanger finale left off, could be higher than expected.

In a recent chat with EW, Nicotero spoke about the decision to conclude season 6 with a major cliffhanger, saying that he supports how it was made because the story definitely did not conclude with the season 6 ender.

“If we would have shown the deaths, then they wouldn’t have felt our characters in season seven the way they need to,” he said.

While Nicotero’s use of the word “deaths” may have been no more than an innocent error, could it also mean that the “TWD” boss had been careless and had unwittingly revealed a major season 7 secret?

“The Walking Dead” season 7 debuts Sunday, Oct. 23, at 9 p.m. EDT on AMC.


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Jeffrey Dean Morgan on why ‘Walking Dead’ fans should root for Negan

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Sunday night on “The Walking Dead,” a newcomer named Negan bashed someone to death with a barbed-wire baseball bat. Yet actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan doesn’t necessarily think of his character as a villain.

“People say he’s this psychotic guy,” Morgan, 49, told reporters on Monday. “I never looked at him like that. I think there’s a lot of similarities between him and Rick [Andrew Lincoln]. If we had been following Negan from day one, the audience would be rooting for him.”

Besides, Negan only offs one person with his trusty bat, named Lucille. Says Morgan with a laugh: “Rick just killed 20 of Negan’s men. I feel Rick’s getting off really easy here.”

The new baddie’s first appearance had been drummed for several episodes, and it was obvious his introduction would have to make a splash.

Yet Morgan — who shot his big “Walking Dead” scene while on break from “The Good Wife,” where he plays sexy investigator Jason Crouse — had little time to prepare: He got his lines a couple of days before stepping in front of the cameras.

“I had to make my decisions right then and there,” he says. “In Negan, you have something that people want to follow. A little bit of that is fear, a little bit is charisma, a little bit is a sense of humor. I tried to mash all that into one character on the fly. It was like doing a play — you’re kind of onstage. [Showrunner Scott] Gimple said he’s the star of his own movie. I tried to take that and run with it.”

Many fans have been upset by the episode ending on a cliffhanger: The scene is shot from the POV of the person who died, and we don’t know the victim’s identity.

“I didn’t know about the cliffhanger until I watched the show,” Morgan says. “The death of the person will kick off Season 7, and obviously, who is on the receiving end of Lucille will be a big part. I understand the fans’ frustration, I get that. That said, I have to trust these writers, and they know what they’re doing.”

Morgan’s been familiar with the series’ source material for a while. A few years ago, fans at Comic-Con actually thrust a copy of “The Walking Dead” issue 100 — which introduced Negan — in his hands and told him that “when they get to this guy, you should be this guy.”

Now he gets to dream up a backstory for “this guy”: “I feel like he used to be a used-car salesman and he’s survived. What has he done to get there? We’ve seen what Rick has done to get there and keep his people alive. There’s probably strong parallel lines with Negan and his story.”

Still, even taking into account different perspectives and all, it’s clear that Morgan’s character hardly qualifies as a Care Bear.

“We’re going to see Negan do some stuff in the next year that’s not going to be very nice, and I may have to approach that from a different angle,” the actor concedes. “I realize Negan is a bad guy, but he’s one of the most well-rounded villains we’re going to see on any screen in a long time.

“He’s got a lot of stories yet to come. It’s going to be an interesting road.”


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