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.”
For those unfamiliar with Kirkman’s comic prequel, Morgan talks about the evolution of Negan 2.0 “After the apocalypse hits and the zombies start taking over the world, you see Negan trying to help people,” says Morgan. “And no one listens to him, and they get killed, and so finally he gets to the point that he becomes a little bit of a dictator. Negan’s always a foul-mouthed son of a bitch, so he always is colorful with his language, but I think you see him kind of make a shift, because he starts off really trying to help people and save people, and when they don’t listen to him and they’re constantly getting killed, he becomes a little bit more brutal in his tactics, I guess.”
Negan’s relationship with Dwight is perhaps the most complex of all. The two of them have a history in the comics that will be explored when the show returns, as will the question of what happened to Dwight’s face. “Yeah, the Dwight relationship is interesting, certainly,” notes Morgan. “And I’ve got a couple guys that are very loyal to me, but a lot of it is fear-based. A lot of them are with Negan because they know what will happen if they are not with Negan. There are some loyal followers, obviously, and I’m hoping we get more into kind of that relationship with his Saviors at some point because right now we haven’t delved that deep into it. You see touches of it kind of sprinkled throughout.”
Of course, there are other advantages to following Negan beyond merely avoiding ruthless punishment. “Some follow him because they know he’s going to keep them alive,” says Morgan. “Obviously he’s got the numbers and the know-how, and the Sanctuary. He’s got some stuff going for him, certainly, that’s going to keep people alive, but he keeps people on the straight and narrow. He’s not afraid to use Lucille or his iron to make damn sure that people stay in line.”
No he most certainly is not.
Check out an exclusive video of Morgan talking about pre-apocalypse Negan below.