AMC’s worst-kept secret is that Jeffrey Dean Morgan will be stepping into the boots and shrugging on the leather jacket of The Walking Dead’s newest Big Bad, Negan. While fans shouldn’t expect to see the baseball-bat wielding menace until the tail end of Season 6, that doesn’t mean Dean Morgan isn’t excited about playing him. How excited?
“Really fucking excited.”
Dean Morgan recently spoke to EW about getting the chance to play the comic book villain and how excited he was when the offer came across the line. And while it’s a prerequisite these days for all actors to be well-versed in comic book lore (or at least pretend they are), Dean Morgan also gives some insight into his preparation for the role, especially since he’ll be juggling double duty filming The Walking Dead and The Good Wife. If you want to know whether or not he’ll be channeling Negan’s colorful language or how good he is at swinging a bat, you’ll want to read on below.
When asked how familiar he was with the apocalyptic story and its infamous villain, Dean Morgan said:
“I was familiar. I watched the show, one. But two, I’ve always had a foot in the comic book world. I grew up with my uncle’s comic books at my grandma’s house, so I’ve always loved my comic book reading. And then that took on a whole new level when I did Watchmen. I go to Comic-Con every year, generally with some project of some sort.
So a couple of years ago people started saying, “Hey, man, you should be Negan in The Walking Dead.” So I started reading the comic books just because I’m a fan and I love what Kirkman is doing and so I was very aware of Negan and had read quite a bit of the comic books. So my agent and manager were on the phone and said, “The Walking Dead have offered you this thing,” but they didn’t have any information. They didn’t know the character’s name. It was all a big secret.
And they sort of got halfway through the sentence saying “We don’t know the character’s name, he’s the new big bad…” and I knew immediately who they were talking about. They just got halfway through and I knew immediately who it was. It was no question. I was like, “Absolutely. We’re going to f—ing do it!” And that was it. And literally a week later I was in Atlanta talking with the cast and hanging out.”
Most fans are justifiably happy with Dean Morgan playing Negan, but it remains to be seen just how far AMC is able to push television boundaries. We certainly won’t see a carbon copy of Robert Kirkman’s character, but it sounds as if the network will be willing to try:
How close to the comic are they going to keep the character?
The character itself is going to be as close as humanly possible.
The foul language is an issue.
Look, it’s a speed bump. I’m not going to say it’s an issue because they’re working on it. We’re going to push AMC — the plan is to push them as far as they can because it’s who Negan is. He uses some colorful language. And I use some colorful language. And reading the comic, it’s important. So we’ll see where that lands. It’s our intention that this character is going to leap off the pages of the comic book. It’s very important that that’s who it is. Some of the characters there’s much more leeway, but Negan is a guy that you want to keep as true as possible, and that would be how I want to play him as well.
Dean Morgan and the showrunners will have to put their own spin on Negan to get around the censors, but at least one thing will remain the same as it is on the pages of Kirkman’s comic books:
Have you seen your Lucille yet?
She is gorgeous. She is a beautiful girl.
You practice your swing a bit?
I don’t need to practice my swing. I grew up with a bat in my hands.
Dean Morgan will swing for the fences when The Walking Dead returns for its second half of Season 6 in February 2016.