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Major spoilers below for anyone who hasn't yet watched The Walking Dead's Season 9 premiere.
The final shot of "A New Beginning" was one of The Walking Dead's most disturbing visuals, with Gregory's lifeless body dropping to the ground as his noose was cut, instantly cutting to the episode's credits. It was the creepy end to a well-deserved character death, but star Xander Berkeley revealed that his character wasn't originally supposed to get killed off in the premiere in such a way. In his words:
Comic readers are probably nodding along right now in understanding, since Gregory's death came far earlier on the show than it did in the comics, where all the characters were a bit deeper into the time jump. (That wasn't the only difference from the source material.) Before Scott Gimple made the move to oversee the entire Walking Dead franchise, it sounded like he and the writers had some extended plans for Xander Berkeley's shit-stirring fusspot. But when Angela Kang took over as the new showrunner, those plans either got altered or thrown out altogether.
To be sure, Angela Kang was granted showrunner duties going into a season where just about everything seemed to be in flux and hard to nail down. From the time-jump complications to Andrew Lincoln and Lauren Cohan's upcoming show exits to the arrival of all kinds of new characters, Season 9 is a beast of a year for this show. As it would be for any series making so many changes this late in its run.
It sounds like Xander Berkeley wanted some of those changes in Season 7 when Gregory was being locked up in Hilltop with the captured Saviors. Speaking with EW, the actor claimed he was actually asking to be killed off rather than having to keep going with that plotline.
Of course, that didn't quite happen. When Season 9's premiere kicked off, the narrative was now 18 months beyond the events of the Season 8 finale, and the Hilltop citizens had voted on making Maggie their leader over Gregory. So the character never even had a shot to try and usurp his quasi-nemesis, for Gregory's semi-drunken plan to have Earl kill Maggie got him sentenced to death.
For what it's worth, Berkeley was glad they show went with the actual hanging in taking Gregory out. The actor said he's been killed tons of times in other ways -- including stabbings, shootings, plane explosions and falls from buildings -- but hadn't ever gotten to bow out on camera in such a fashion.
Still, even though Xander Berkeley did get a slice of what he was looking for from Gregory's final hour, the actor does imply the premiere episode moved a little too quickly from one inciting incident to the next. In his words:
Xander Berkeley kept his opinions respectful and cordial, but it seems clear that he's disappointed in how The Walking Dead's creative team stuck the landing with Gregory's arc. (Not the literal body-thudding-on-the-ground landing.) But I bet there are lots of viewers out there who are glad we never have to hear or see Gregory's brown-nosing ever again.