In its first seven seasons, The Walking Dead has taken plenty of liberties when it comes to changing things up from Robert Kirkman's comic books, and arguably the biggest and most intriguing way this happens is through new characters that not even comic fans are familiar with. And one of the most memorable new Walking Dead additions in recent years has been Steven Ogg's charmingly menacing villain Simon. CinemaBlend had the pleasure of talking to the actor about this week's Blu-ray release for The Walking Dead Season 7, and he told me why he enjoys not having a comic counterpart.
Obviously Norman's character is not in the comic book I know Sonequa, her character was developed based on a few different characters. So the fun and the freedom for both the writers and me personally, as an actor, is that there's no blueprint for him, so I think they can mold him into whatever void needs to be filled. Which is exciting, because there's no expectations. Which is, I think, why a lot of people are surprised by Simon. Because you don't know what he's gonna do because there is no blueprint form him. You know you can stray from the comic books. You could always do that, of course. And change a character even if they are in Kirkman's books. But I think what makes Simon interesting is, of course, there is no blueprint. So you don't know what he's doing and where he's going, and it just adds another cool layer of unpredictable...ness. Unpredictableness? [laughs]
In referencing Daryl and Sasha, Steven Ogg brought up two of the show's most popular characters that were invented specifically for TV, and while it remains to be seen if Simon will survive long enough to enter that pretty specific pantheon, he's got a solid chance. A lot of it comes down to the way Ogg can offer up a genuinely warm smile in the same instant that he's striking immediate fear into everyone around him, but he's definitely right in saying Simon's unpredictable nature plays a big part in why he's such an exciting character to watch. And we'll thankfully be seeing a lot more of him in Season 8.
Fans anticipating a big Walking Dead comic character, such as Simon's bossman Negan, will often bring an over-abundance of expectations along. (I'm certainly not innocent of bringing my own ideals into the conversation, sometimes while hollering.) And so there are big lines to look out for, big character interactions to seek out, and other similar moments, with giant deaths obviously looming large over plenty of TV characters' heads throughout the course of the show. But for someone like Simon, there's nothing to latch onto from the page, which makes his every move a surprise in and of itself. I'm kind of surprised he hasn't just arbitrarily killed everyone yet.
As far as comic characters that Simon could have shared plotlines with, it would have made the most sense for him to have gotten some Dwight characteristics, since he's Negan's head enforcer. But Dwight got a completely different introduction than he received in the source material, opening up a spot for another devious villain to step in, and one that presumably won't be a Savior turncoat. (For what it's worth, I asked Steven Ogg if there was any indication that his presence influenced any of that, and he directed me to asking showrunner Scott Gimple.)
Truth be told, even if Simon was indeed a major character from the source material, it likely wouldn't take any enjoyment away from experiencing Steven Ogg's performance. Both Simon and the actor himself have managed to rise above instances of negative feedback that Walking Dead fans are sometimes quick to bring into existence, and Ogg told me people are much more likely to come at him saying how much they "love to hate him," which he actually enjoys quite a bit. He specifically pointed out Xander Berkeley's Gregory and Seth Gilliam's Father Gabriel as being so successful for provoking such strong faux-hatred from the fans so quickly after being introduced.
You can currently purchase The Walking Dead: The Complete Seventh Season, which came out on Tuesday, August 22. With it, you'll be able to watch all 16 episodes from the world-building season, and you'll also be able to watch a special feature specifically focused on how much larger the central setting got in Season 7. Steven Ogg's mustache doesn't get its own feature, but Negan's presence on the show does, and the set offers up plenty of other featurettes to take fans deeper into the show. My favorite way to do that is through episode commentaries, and there are indeed an assortment here that offer up interesting details that not everyone was aware of when watching the episodes the first time around. (Such as what Daryl's jumpsuit letter means.)
Simon will be back to wreak havoc on other survivors when The Walking Dead Season 8 premieres on AMC on Sunday, October 22, at 9:00 p.m. Check out some interesting info we learned from Michael Cudlitz recently, and then to see what other shows are on the way in the coming months, check out our fall premiere schedule.