The Walking Dead gave Jeffrey Dean Morgan a hell of an entrance in the Season 6 finale when he made his grand debut as the bad guy Negan. The show spent a lot of time establishing Negan as a zombie apocalypse leader before the actor ever even appeared on screen, but we don't really know anything about what made Negan the way that he is. As it turns out, Jeffrey Dean Morgan has some thoughts about who Negan was before the world ended. He had this to say about pre-zombie apocalypse Negan:
I don't think this all just came about after the apocalypse... I think Negan's always been the dick you went to high school with. But he also has a razor sharp sense of humor, which goes hand-in-hand with this sort of bullying he does --- it's all with a sharp wit. Here's the thing with Negan: He's going to make you laugh. Even through the worst of it, you will find yourself smiling against your will. And I think that's exactly how he was as a kid and through high school and stuff. That's how we're playing him, anyway. That's how I'm going at it. He didn't turn into this in one day. He's been working at it for a while.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan spoke earlier during hiatus about the fact that Season 7 was going to delve into how Negan operates the Saviors pretty early on, and we can guess on a few general directions for Negan's backstory. The casting call for Negan's character described somebody with the charm of a senator, and Morgan has shared in the past that he began playing the character like a car salesman. He was always going to have a seemingly friendly side.
The idea that Negan has always had a dark side as well even under the veneer of a charmer goes a long way to explain how he could have risen to such a powerful position in the zombie apocalypse. There was no learning curve on how to bully others into following his leadership. It makes sense that he would actually be more effective - if also more terrifyingly brutal - than Rick at this point. It took Rick a couple of years to transform from the good guy sheriff's deputy into the Ricktator. Negan had a head start.
Interestingly, Jeffrey Dean Morgan's reveal to EW that he sees Negan as somebody whose bullying goes back to high school jives with some of the comic backstory that Robert Kirkman has released in recent months. The Here's Negan prequel story showed that Negan was a high school teacher and coach who used humiliation tactics to teach teens the finer arts of ping-pong.
Luckily for those of us who are dying to see Jeffrey Dean Morgan back in action as Negan, The Walking Dead will soon be back on the airwaves. Tune in to AMC on Sunday, October 23 at 9 p.m. ET to catch the Season 7 premiere and see if Negan is indeed as funny as he is violent. Be sure to check out what we know about the upcoming episodes, as well.