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When Jeffrey Dean Morgan's Negan made his dramatic entrance in the Season 6 finale of The Walking Dead earlier this year, he didn't exactly leave audiences with thoughts of sunshine and rainbows. Instead, he was painted as one of the most dangerous individuals that Rick and his group have come across, specifically by killing a to-be-named key character. It's scary and dramatic stuff for sure -- but it would be a mistake to think of Negan as just a straight villain, as the actor bringing him to life believes Negan would stand out as a hero to fans if we'd been following him and his people for the last seven years.
In his new movie, Desierto (which is now in limited release), Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays a true blue psychotic monster -- but when I spoke with him about the role last week during the film's Los Angeles press day, he explained to me why he sees his upcoming role as The Walking Dead's Negan as a completely different kind of character. Specifically, he noted that context means a lot in the role -- especially when you compare his actions to those taken by the "heroic" Rick over the course of the show. Said Morgan,
I see the other side of the coin. If we followed Negan's story for the last seven years, he'd be our hero, and someone like Rick, who rips the throat out of people, would be the bad guy... No matter who Negan kills, Rick and his survivors still killed 20 or 30 of my men. So, yeah, we keep kind of forgetting about that in the evilness that is Negan. So it's walking a little bit of a tightrope with the character and trying to make him real. But at the same time, I'm feeling justified in whatever I'm doing.
Actors regularly talk about how they don't think of their villainous characters as villains -- as the characters themselves wouldn't perceive themselves that way -- but the world of The Walking Dead makes that conversation more interesting. After all, within that universe the zombie apocalypse has completely disrupted all of society's laws, and as a result characters who are supposed to be the "good guys" regularly find themselves doing scary and terrible things. As Jeffrey Dean Morgan points out, Rick hasn't exactly been portrayed as an angel throughout the course of the show, which means that there really should be a curve when it comes to judging Negan and where he falls on the evil scale. As noted by Morgan:
No matter who Negan kills, you know, Rick and his survivors still killed 20 or 30 of my men. So, yeah, we keep kind of forgetting about that in the evilness that is Negan. So, you know, walking a little bit of a tightrope with the character and trying to make him real, but at the same time, I'm feeling justified in whatever I'm doing.
Shows like The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead have effectively changed the way we look at protagonists and antagonists on the small screen in the modern era, and as a result of this it will be fascinating to watch Negan's arc develop over the course of The Walking Dead's seventh season. The action all starts up soon, as the show's season premiere will air on AMC on October 23rd at 9pm ET.