Walking Dead: “Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays Negan to the hilt”

Greg Nicotero talks up The Walking Dead’s most despicable bad guy yet

It’s been a while since The Walking Dead has had a really good, old-fashioned villain. The group have hit obstacles, sure, what with cannibals running around and disagreeable peers at Alexandria, but since the Governor’s death in Season 4, the show’s antagonists have either been quashed too easily for our liking or have just been good guys doing bad things for the wrong reasons.

It’s about time we got another truly awful dictator ruling a community of people who don’t know what else to do. That’s all about to change now that Negan, played by Watchmen’s Jeffrey Dean Morgan, is joining in the fun.

For a teaser of what’s to come in the second half of Season 6, we spoke to executive producer, special effects make-up artist and sometimes-director Greg Nicotero. Understandably, he’s reluctant to spill too much about Negan and how he comes into the equation, but that doesn’t stop him.

“I would say that it’s a pretty faithful adaptation to his introduction in the comic-book,” he says. “Jeffrey Dean Morgan is a phenomenal actor, and he had quite a bit to do when he came in, and he did it without blinking. I think the most exciting thing about The Walking Dead is that fans of the comic-books and fans of the show should brace themselves for the show to take a bit of a dramatic turn. It’s something that’s very exciting for a lot of us, because we really get the opportunity to redefine the show and take the show in a different direction with the introduction of Negan and his group of people.”

Walking Dead Jeffrey Dean Morgan Negan
Nicotero couldn’t praise Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s performance enough

One of the show’s best qualities has always been the strength of its antagonists, so how will Negan compare to the likes of Merle Dixon, Shane Walsh, the Governor and the Terminus cannibals? Will this be a whole new side to Morgan that fans haven’t seen before? “Jeffrey has a really unique charm, which is tremendously appealing, so when you couple that with the darkness that his character brings, it’s a fantastic combination, and I think Jeffrey plays Negan to the hilt. It’s very fresh for our show.

“I think all villains have a seductive side to them, and that’s what’s disarming about them. You look at these bad guys, and you kind of realise that they’re not always super arch, but they’re layered. I think Jeffrey brings a tremendous layered performance. In my opinion, one of the greatest villains in recent movies was Kevin Spacey in Se7en, because there was just such menace about him, but he was quiet, calculating and intelligent. Those are things that I think Negan also possesses, those characteristics of being very, very smart and knowing how to manage and rule his world.”

Nicotero doesn’t let much slip about how Negan comes into the story past that, except for: “It’s a great introduction and a great moment, but I don’t really want to give out about who he meets.” Interesting.

The Walking Dead will return to Fox on Monday 15 February. For more news about the biggest TV shows, pick up the latest issue of SciFiNow.