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Spoiler warning for anyone who hasn't yet watched The Walking Dead's latest episode.
Just a short while after Negan got ambushed by car, had a brawl with Rick, and spent a day strapped to a cart in Jadis' junkyard, he spent most of "Worth" trying to restore order within the Sanctuary. Which included another bare-knuckle showdown, this time with Simon, and this time finishing off with a life-ending strangulation. Star Steven Ogg spoke with CinemaBlend ahead of the episode, and when I mentioned how downright frightening Simon's face was during that scene, the actor told me that faking the fight and choke-out so realistically was the most painful aspect.
That was the toughest part. More than being choked out by Jeffrey. We're all professionals, we don't want to hurt each other. But the throwing the punches when you're not a fighter. Jeffery and I, the next day in the bathtub -- not together, but in our own bathtubs -- we're texting each other, 'How you feeling? I'm sore. You sore?' You're sore not because you took a punch; I was sore because I was swinging away, and it hurts if you don't do it right, so the soreness came from that. The soreness came from when he was choking me out, me holding my breath and doing that contorted face to sell him choking me out, that's what was the worst part. That's what hurt, because you literally feel like your blood vessels are going to explode, you can't breathe. So it's funny, all of those things to sell a punch, or to look like you're being choked out, that's what hurts more than probably if someone was actually doing that to you. It might've been easier to be choked out.
For better or worse, TV and film strangulations tend to not be portrayed extremely realistically, unless the entire point is to focus on how uncomfortable and disturbing they are. The Walking Dead made the discomfort palpable, and Steven Ogg's face resembled Violet Beauregarde's near the end. Understandably, pulling off that haunting death mask meant Ogg had to hold his breath and strain mightily to bring all the blood to his head, authentically selling the scene. It wouldn't have been a picnic had Jeffrey Dean Morgan actually been crushing his windpipe, but it would have been a different kind of pain.
Similarly, this next act in the Saviors' downfall was justifiably unpolished. Steven Ogg shined a light on the fact that he and Jeffrey Dean Morgan are far from trained fighters, and their big fight to the death needed to reflect that properly. So instead of the tightly wound mechanics of a boxing match, this fight more resembled the drunken confrontations that follow tense family reunions. And since neither Ogg nor Morgan goes through physical altercations on a daily basis, going for broke while filming each take took a notable toll on the actors' bodies.
Steven Ogg told me that while it worked out well for the legitimacy of the scene that it wasn't meant to be a flawless brawl, it was still a big challenge to put that fight together in the short time allowed during The Walking Dead's production schedule. In the actor's words:
If you're gonna do a complicated fight scene, you're gonna have time, you're gonna choreograph it. And we had choreographed it, don't get me wrong; we had the stunt guys, we had the stunt coordinator, and everything was discussed and rehearsed a bit. But both Jeffrey and I that day had pages of dialogue to shoot that day, so as an actor, you're focused on that dialogue, as opposed to focused on that fight. So if you had a week to shoot that, then there would be more rehearsal, there would be more this and that. But in our case, you're shooting that in a few hours with very limited rehearsal. . . . So that was the hard part, the difficult thing, is that what could have been a week of rehearsal and shooting [happened] in hours. If you're doing a martial arts movie, you're gonna hopefully get adequate training and look the part, so a street fight is different. I'm not a trained fighter; given the right amount of time, I would look like one, but that's the difficulty with it. I'm more concerned about the words and that part than looking like a professional fighter. And in Simon's case, it works.
By the end of the episode, Negan had also put Dwight into an extremely unsettling position, having reconnected with Laura, who revealed Dwight's duplicitous actions. And rather than conning Michonne into thinking all that might be forgiven, Negan dropped the mother of all threats and laid the blame for the impending mayhem at Rick's feet. Negan should probably let some of his bruises heal before getting into more physical altercations with anybody, but I don't see that happening.
The Walking Dead will air its Season 8 finale on AMC on Sunday, April 15, at 9:00 p.m. ET. Check out what Steven Ogg told us about the other way he would have wanted Simon to die, and then head to our midseason premiere schedule and our summer premiere schedule to see what new and returning shows will be around when the walkers are on hiatus.