Batter up! In the final part of my exclusive interview with The Walking Dead showrunner Scott Gimple, the affable executive producer casts some light on what we can expect from this season’s upcoming Big Bad, the long-awaited Negan, and the actor who will brandish his trademark baseball bat Lucille — the one and only Jeffrey Dean Morgan.
Nerdist: Negan is probably the most anticipated antagonist to appear yet on The Walking Dead. What prompted you to cast Jeffrey Dean Morgan for the role?
Scott Gimple: As far as Jeffrey goes… The glee that he had in the idea of being able to play this role was perfect for this role. The glee that he showed is so similar to the kind of id that Negan displays. It isn’t just that, physically, he resembles him. Jeffrey’s enthusiasm mirrors the character’s enthusiasm. Negan is an extremely enthusiastic character; he’s not subtle. There really aren’t a lot of half measures. He’s a bull in a china shop, and the china shop is the world. And he’s not very concerned about what he breaks. I saw Jeffrey’s smile and I said, “Oh, that’s Negan’s smile.”
When we initially started talking about it, just the happiness beaming from him at the idea of doing this role was like I can’t imagine anybody else doing it.
N: Even more so than the Governor, Negan is the complete opposite of Rick. Someone who operates with zero regrets or concerns, with no demons haunting him…
SG: Oh yeah. He lives in the moment. What you see is absolutely what you get. I mean he goes down certain conversational lines and then he’ll tell you he’s screwing with you, but that’s about as deep an obfuscation that he has. He is the real deal. He’s a brilliant strategist, but there’s this familiar thing about him. The thing I discovered of course in thinking more and more about him is that he’s the ultimate bully. The bullies in school that were the worst were the ones that were funny. [The ones] that were legitimately funny, that as they were picking on you you could see that they had a bit of craft to their comedy. That was the worst. Because you hated them but you thought, “God, he’s funny. I gotta give it to him. He is funny.” I think Negan is the same way. He is charismatic. He is funny. And yet he does these horrible things and he has this bottom line, kind of scary philosophy to the world. And it’s never really personal. It’s all about keeping the world in the direction that he wants it to go, which is his direction.
Yeah, he’s an incredible character. He really is one of the best pop culture characters of the last twenty-five years.
N: Do you find your adhering more closely to the comic book’s version of Negan than the show did in the cast of the Governor?
SG: There are variations, but there is something very pure about that character. Again, what you see is what you get. Most recently, I think it was two or three issues ago — it might be a few more, it’s within the last five or six issues — Negan said something about his past, and God knows whether it was true or not. But it’s the first thing he said about his past, but I was blown away and then I was thinking, “Was it really true?”
I think there will be some variation — probably more like circumstance — but there’s not gonna be any huge departures for that character. Other than the fact that he will be a woman And that Jeffrey’s casting was just a smokescreen.
N: Fair enough. [Laughs.] Thank you, Scott.
SG: My pleasure.
What do you think of Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s casting as Negan? Will he hit it out of the park? Let us know below!
Negan’s comic book history explained: