‘The Walking Dead’: Jeffrey Dean Morgan on Negan’s Finale Debut and Where Season 7 Picks Up

The Walking Dead Season 7
Courtesy of AMC

Spoiler warning: Do not read on unless you’ve seen “The Walking Dead” Season 6 finale, titled “Last Day on Earth.”

As the latest addition to “The Walking Dead” cast, Jeffrey Dean Morgan certainly made an impression in his bloody debut as Negan in last night’s Season 6 finale. After his brutal band of Saviors cornered Rick and his group, Negan played a harrowing game of Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Mo to choose which of our survivors he’d brutally kill with his baseball bat, Lucille. Unfortunately for fans, the show chose to film that murder from the perspective of Negan’s victim, meaning that we’ll have to wait until Season 7 to find out who Negan killed.

Following his Sunday night appearance on “The Talking Dead” alongside comic creator Robert Kirkman and series showrunner Scott Gimple, Morgan spoke to reporters on Monday morning from New York, where he’s finishing up his recurring role on the final season of “The Good Wife.” Find out what he had to say about Negan’s introduction; his “emotional” two nights of filming with the “Walking Dead” cast; and where Season 7 will pick up in the aftermath of our mystery character’s death. This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

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How much will the series explore how Negan became the character that we see him as now? 

I talked to Robert Kirkman last night after we did “Talking Dead” and he’s kind of doing the backstory of Negan now, so whether or not or when we see that — and I hope we do — I can’t answer that. I know that when Season 7 kicks off, it’s gonna kick off directly from where we left it last night; that’s about all I know as a fact at this point. But hopefully we’ll find out more about Negan as we go. I think his backstory’s gonna be pretty fascinating.

Will you guys show the graphic detail of whoever met Lucille last night?

That would be the hope, yeah, that’s the impression I have — we will pick up directly from what we saw last night that ends Season 6, on that note, and Season 7 is gonna pick up right where we left off. So yeah, you’re gonna see who’s at the end of that bat and what happens from there.

How chilling was it to shoot the last scene?

It was a little bit tense. For me, it all happened very fast. I think I got the script two days before I shot it, and I only got that piece — I only got Negan’s stuff, so I didn’t even get the full script. But I think for obvious reasons, the cast of the show was understandably agitated. They may know more than I did going in. Everything was very hush-hush, AMC and “The Walking Dead” are trying to keep everything so secretive, so I went in knowing my monologue, which was essentially taken from the graphic novel. I think agitated is a fair word — it was a very emotional two nights, and I think you saw it on the actors’ faces.

For me, it was about learning a monologue and trying to portray a character that I haven’t gotten to play a whole lot of in my career. I was just trying to find that groove as Negan, I only had two days to do it and that’s a hell of an introduction for somebody to just come in and do. It was very emotional, that’s what I’ll say. It was very emotional for the whole cast and a couple of them didn’t make eye contact with me until the end of the second night and a couple of them, on the same note, embraced me immediately and were texting me after we’d filmed all night. But I’d say overall, people were emotional.

Fans are pretty upset over the cliffhanger ending; what was your take on it?

I didn’t know it was going to be a cliffhanger until I watched the show – that was how it was done in my world. I don’t know if any of the cast knew how exactly it was going to end, which caused a lot of the uncertainty and emotion to be going on. That being said, in talking to Scott and Robert last night, I think their explanation [was] that that was the end of the story for that season, and that is that Rick has lost control, and there’s Negan, and Negan has all the control and I think that’s where they wanted to end the story — and it’s not about the death of that person … the death of the person is gonna kick off 7, and Season 7 will be a big part of who is on the receiving end of Lucille. I understand the fans’ frustration, I get that. That being said… I have to trust these writers and showrunners, they know what they’re doing. It’s been a show that a lot of people watch for six seasons and I believe they’ll be back to see who met Lucille and as the story continues to grow.

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How did you approach bringing Negan to life in that final scene?

I’m a fan of the show and I was a fan of the comic books. I got approached when Negan was introduced in the 100th issue of the comic book – fans of the comic book gave me a copy of it and said, “when they ever get to this guy, you should be this guy,” and I was at Comic-Con, actually, and that was in like 2012 or 2013 or something, so I was very aware of the character. I had read a couple of the comic books. I think the tone of Negan, that came in discussions with Scott, but mostly it came from seeing the panels of the graphic novel — Negan’s grin and attitude, that’s the skeleton for my character, those pages. I just add meat to those bones and try to fill in the spots that aren’t there. I think what was important is that this character was charismatic. People are like “he’s this psychotic guy,” I never looked at him like that. I think there’s a lot of similarities between him and Rick. If we were following Negan’s story from day one on “The Walking Dead,” the audience would be rooting for him. It’s a very parallel storyline, it’s just now I’m going to butt heads with Rick and his group and he’s gonna have to deal with me and the Saviors.

I think in Negan, you’ve got a guy who’s got something. He’s got something that people want to follow; a little bit of that is fear and a little bit of that is charisma and a little bit of that is a sense of humor and trying to mash all of that together in one character, in one monologue is what I tried to do on the fly. Like I said, I got that scene maybe two days before we shot it, it was fast work and I had to get it and make my decisions right then and there and you saw the final result, and hopefully people were happy with it.

How many takes did your introduction take to film?

We shot my side in the first night, and then we turned around and did everybody else. They use real film on “The Walking Dead,” it’s not shot digitally … I don’t know how many takes, but we had six cameras rolling, it was quite a production. I got it all the way through the first time and I got it all the way through the last time and every time in between, so they had a lot of stuff to edit and play with. It’s like doing a play, a monologue like that; you’re kind of on stage and that’s sort of the deal with Negan, he just takes center stage. And I’ve heard Kirkman and Gimple say he’s the star of his own movie and I tried to take that and run with it.

Are you playing Negan as a “bad guy”?

I’ve played a couple bad guys in my life… I never approach it like he’s the bad guy, I approach it like he’s a guy, especially in a world like the zombie apocalypse … I think the backstory of Negan is that he used to be a used car salesman; that’s what I know and there’s not a whole lot beyond that. I think Kirkman’s working on it now, so I don’t have a whole lot to go with, but he’s a car salesman and he has survived as long as Rick and his gang, so in order to do that, what has he done to get there?

We’ve seen what Rick has done to get there and keep his people alive and the kind of leader he’s become, and I think there’s some very strong parallel lines between Negan and his story. We were talking last night on “Talking Dead” and you think about how many people Rick has killed to get to where he is, and the fact that Negan’s only taken out maybe one of them, right? Rick just killed 20 of his men, so I feel like Rick’s getting off real easy here. Negan has these guys work for him, luckily, Negan’s got a lot of story yet to come. We just met the guy – so it’s gonna be an interesting road. I know a little bit, I know certainly what I know from the comics and I’m anxious to really delve into it. So we’ll see.

How are you preparing for never being anonymous again?

I don’t know, it’s already getting weird. I’ve got a different life, I live up on a farm, I don’t have anything to do with social media… I don’t know if you can ever prepare yourself for that. It’s never been something that I’ve been interested in. I love what I do for a living, but the other side, that aspect of being famous or a celebrity’s got zero interest to me. We’ll see, I don’t know that I knew exactly what I was tackling when I decided to do this role, so we’ll see how well I handle it, because I’m a private person, so I’m a little bit interested to see how that all works out and if I deal with it well. I hope I do.

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Negan’s showmanship feels similar to the Comedian’s from “Watchmen” – why do you connect so well to those charming rogues?

The Comedian I think was a little bit more hardcore, a little nihilistic. I haven’t completely figured out Negan yet, which is a cool thing for me — it means I get to do a lot more work to figure this guy out. Like I said, I had like two days of preparation before I was on the set doing that scene so I didn’t have a ton of time. I was in the middle of doing “Good Wife” when I did it, I was on whatever episode, maybe episode 10 of “The Good Wife,” and it just worked out and I ran down to Atlanta and shot that scene. I didn’t have a ton of time to prep for it, other than I watch the show and I was aware of this character…

My agents called and said “Walking Dead” wants you to be a bad guy and they were like, “we don’t know the character’s name,” but I knew immediately who it was, because I was aware of the comic and where we are in the show. I knew enough about him where I felt real comfortable just on the fly doing it. But I don’t know why I excel being a villain, I don’t think of him necessarily as a villain other than for the same reason you do, that you’re a fan of the show and you watch these characters and you attach yourself to them and this is the gonna be the guy that ruins that for you. But in my world as an actor, I approach it that this is a guy who’s a survivor.

We’re gonna see Negan do some stuff in the next year or two that is not gonna be very nice and I may have to approach that from different angles. But we’ll see, I haven’t got there yet. It’s been so much on the fly right now … After I wrap “The Good Wife” is when I have time to figure out Negan and do a little more thinking on it. I’m kind of locked into Jason Crouse’s world, I did this in November… so I’ll do more digging on Negan, but all I can say about my bad guy roles is I really have fun doing them. The last few years I’ve always been a decent guy, a good guy, so to speak — a little gruff and rough around the edges but basically a good guy — in TV anyway. And Negan, I realize he’s a bad guy and I realize that he’s maybe one of the most well-rounded villains that we’re gonna see on any screen in a long time and I look at that and all I can tell you is I get real excited about it.

Have you read ahead in the comics to find out what happens to the character?

I know a little bit, I know where we’re going. I’ve got a stack of the “Walking Dead” comic books next to my bed here. I think we’re going to stick pretty close to what you see in the graphic novel with this character because he’s so iconic to this world, so this storyline is going to stay true. From what I understand talking to Scott Gimple and Robert Kirkman, we’re gonna try and keep it pretty close. I think that’s something to be able to look forward to because it’s a great storyline.

What did you think of Negan’s introduction and who do you think he killed? Weigh in below.

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  1. Jeffrey Dean Morgan The Walking Dead best movie

  2. Frankie says:

    Car salesman? What?!?! Everything I ever liked about this character just died. That does NOT fit his character at all. Negan is far too narcissistic to pimp himself out for a sale. Nope, he would probably be the type to, be his own boss. Maybe own his own a small local chain of oil change stops. Employing a little rough but good hearted kids. The type of boss that you never know when he’ll show up or not, strolls in late, leaves early with a pretty girl telling the guys not to wait up and laughing. The kind of boss that just lets everything roll, but if you do fuck up, like majorly, he’s going to fire you in front of everyone, and you don’t want to be on his bad side.

    Negan’s the kind of guy who hangs out at the cool watering holes with pretty women and tough guys. Where the bartender gives him and his pals discounts or free drinks, and no one else in the room really matters, because really it’s their bar…..fucking car sales man, you’ve got to be kidding me.

  3. Jeff Wilson says:

    I was super pissed about the cliff hanger. However, i think it was genius. We will all be tuning in to find out who it was. We have yet to quit talking about it. It will be one, if not the, biggest episodes of the series. I just hope they realize they have a lot to live up to. It needs to be a main character to live up to the hype at this point.

    • Max Hadrian says:

      I’m a used car salesman. Guy, you have no idea what people like me have been through, or what we could be come…

  4. Lou dog says:

    its either Glenn who dies ( based on comic) or Daryl who has had less of a role and has several projects that are taking up his time so he could go as well. it will never be carl or rick as without that team there is no TWD.

  5. dalton nance says:

    I think he killed rick because negan called him an ass hole

  6. Edna says:

    There is no one more important to Rick than Carl. The statement Negan made was telling us it was Carl. Besides, who would we be more upset about seeing be killed, Carl.

  7. Jason says:

    This is show about zombies how tear people limb from limb in nearly every episode. We have our lead characters murdering people in their sleep with their bare hands. Do the writers think they can out-gore the series to date with the death of a character? That’s a joke. This is Terminus all over again, even the bat to the head (been there, done that). Yawn.

  8. Amy says:

    I thought it was great. I love the way the style and pace changes from episode to episode, and thought that everyone – Andrew Lincoln especially – did a fantastic job of putting across the awful sinking realisation that everything is going to the dogs and they can’t do anything about it.
    I have a horrible feeling it will be Maggie, based on how absolutely shocking and awful and game-changing people keep saying it is. I don’t want it to be Maggie, but I think I’d feel short changed if after all the fuss I reckon if they, say, killed off Aaron because it would feel like a cop out as we barely know him.. I will cry a river if it is Eugene just because of the little smile he did in the RV.
    Negan… I kinda liked him, against everything I think I should feel about him!

    I know a lot people feel let down by it – but I was gripped all the way through – as usual.

  9. Jocke says:

    Obviously it was Abraham who got beaten to death.

    • Jason says:

      Who cares who bought it? I mean really. Is that one question the foundation of a compelling story? Not for most I suspect, especially when their predicament is the direct result of series of inexplicable, out-of-character decisions that basically having our cast getting what they deserve.

      Was I the only one who kept thinking about Zed in Pulp Fiction during the “Eenie Meenie, Miney, Moe” bit?

  10. J M says:

    Good grief you “fans” are pathetic. If you don’t like the story being presented to you then simply move on. By the way, it was excellently delivered. congratulations TWD, Continued success

    • powerstrike5 says:

      Your stupid, this ending has been done already nothing new and it SUCKS! They will ruin it, most of us have moved on, no need to watch season 7. This show is boring already.

      • Anna says:

        YOU’RE stupid. I’d recommend a lesson in proper grammar before insulting another person’s intelligence.

  11. T. Walker says:

    Hold UP!!! News flash – Gimple thinks viewers are like Children having a temper Tantrum (WTH)!

    I am just hopping all over, from comment to comment. Its amazing to see the absolute disdain from a multitude of different social media sites about TWD finale. Everyone agrees it was horrid writing! Season 6 started off with such promise too.

    It was despicable to watch Gimple’s “Talking Dead” couch interview. The host looked like he just wanted to crawl under the dumpster with Glen a few episodes back!

    Will I be back?? The show is on life-support with me, I can pull the plug at anytime (metaphorically turning the channel)! If season 7, is like season 6…. call the morgue.

  12. JDM, I hope that Rick kills your character quickly. I agree with everyone that we didn’t need the shock factor. It is, as someone else so aptly pointed out, a cop out. Good writes don’t have to kill off main characters for ratings.

    • Anna says:

      That’s not gonna happen, sweet cheeks. Negan is a force to be reckoned with. Rick seriously overplayed his hand when he messed with that SOB.

    • Kayla says:

      You do know that this was just following the graphic novel, correct? The writers of the show didn’t create Negan or decide to “kill off a main character”. It happens in the comics…

  13. They’ve lost me as a viewer. I don’t care who, if anyone, got killed. I watch VERY little television. I made an exception with The Walking Dead because I felt the writing was superb and the actors had great abilities and chemistry to bring those well-written scripts to life. I don’t have cable or satellite – I buy a season pass every year on Vudu and watch on my computer. This was the first time, in all the years I’ve watched this series, that I paused playback during the season finale, got up, did some stuff that needed to be done, and came back to it some time later. Ordinarily, I’d be glued to the screen for the duration. Instead, I found myself pausing to reflect WHY I watch this thing to begin with. Maybe I’ll binge watch the next season on Netflix in a few years, but I can’t see myself paying twenty-something dollars next year just to find out “who got it” (it was Glenn in the comics, of course). As far as I’m concerned, everything with the series has become weak, pandering to shock value, and the proverbial shark has been jumped. It was a good run, but I’m really not interested anymore.

  14. JM says:

    Five minutes of JDM were great, but not enough to save the show for me anymore. Scott Gimple and the other show creators can (and I am quoting [paraphrasing] GoT) “take their show and shove it up their bastaaaaooaard arrsses”.

  15. bereal says:

    I am a fan of the show, Unfortunately, the season finale was a big cop out. First they make it seem that the character Glenn dies at the midpoint of the season. Then they do not show who Negan killed at the end of the season finale. This just proves that the producers and creator of the show have lost confidence in us fans. We do not need gimmicks to stay loyal to the show. What’s interesting is to see how both Scott Gimple and Robert Kirkman try to rationalize why they chose not to show who was killed. They claim that next season will be all about who was killed and the aftermath. Guess what, even if you would have shown who got killed, we would still watch the show. They seem to have this “Holier than thou” attitude.

  16. Ima says:

    It was Michonne. All clues point to her.

    • Judy Burd says:

      I agree it was Michone. Its either her, Sasha, Daryl or Glenn. The writers of TWD don’t think anyone else ever too a film class? POV is from the person point of view. The first couple of seconds is the person in the van riddled with bullet wholes. it happens a cuple of times. The next time the POV happens is after they join the two groups. I dont think its Sasha since she is not beloved. So that leave the two guys and Michone. She was in the back of the van when the door opens and the POV was from that vantage point.

    • Why? What clues point to her?

  17. K Rejaton says:

    OMG he made my skin crawl. Watching him felt overwhelming. To borrow a line from Ramsey Bolton in Game of Thrones, “If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.”

  18. Paul J Plate says:

    I don’t plan on watching the first episode of season 7. I will just read the synopsis, and spoiler reviews to find out what should have been in the six finale. This was complete BS! If I had known I would have wasted 90 mins, I would have just read the spoilers on Monday, and not bothered to watch the sad cat and mouse game played out over 90 mins, all for nothing.

  19. NANCY LUCK says:

    Loved this episode! I thought JDM nailed the part. Can’t wait for his back story with family,job,normal life, etc. He does bad guy GREAT. check out a movie, THE SALVATION. He oozes bad guy in that movie as well. Have a great summer and forget about for a while! AARON,SASHA OR EUGENE BOUGHT IT, JUST SAYIN’.

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