In the Season 6 finale of The Walking Dead, Jeffrey Dean Morgan's Negan left quite a significant impact on fans. More than just questioning the identity of the person whom Negan beats to death with his signature barbwire bat, loyal viewers have questioned exactly how Rick and his group will be able to survive around such an incredibly dangerous individual. We fully expect that same feeling to surround Morgan's performance throughout Season 7 -- but those of you hoping that the character will emerge as an over-the-top comic book villain may be disappointed.
Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Jeffrey Dean Morgan during the Los Angeles press day for his new movie Desierto - and given that he plays a murderous villain in that film, the subject of Negan and The Walking Dead came up quite easily. Given his personal history with comic book adaptations (Watchmen, The Losers, Jonah Hex, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice), I asked if the source material provided some license to go a bit more extreme with his turn as the new villain on the hit AMC show, and he explained that he really couldn't do that and still fit the proper atmosphere the series has developed over the years. Said the actor,
With Negan, I am keenly aware not to be over the top. In a world that I think has been created, that is kind of so real, the Walking Dead world, you can't have this guy coming in with his red scarf and his barbwire bat and being over the top -- and his use of the English language and all of that. I was trying kind of downplay the comic book side.
Reflecting on his history in comic book movie making, Jeffrey Dean Morgan drew a comparison to his role as The Comedian in Zack Snyder's Watchmen - a character who was truly drawn straight out of the source material and not so much changed and adapted for a different medium:
It's one thing in a comic book, I think, when you read it. And you see it a little bit with Comedian too - although that, literally Zack shot that almost panel for panel, so it was a different thing. But Walking Dead is a bit of a trick in trying to make sure that he fits into that world, and doesn't come off as kind of cartoonish.
Fans have certainly seen some outlandish and insane things happen over the last six years on The Walking Dead, but there is a whole lot of sense in what Jeffrey Dean Morgan is saying about keeping Negan on the grounded and real side of things. While the show is science-fiction/fantasy, what makes it affecting and emotional is the fact that it still feels like it is a reflection of our own world, and that's where the horror comes from. If Negan is too over the top, he ceases to be perceived as a realistic threat, and would hurt the show.