The Walking Dead: The Biggest Challenge To Playing Negan, According To Jeffrey Dean Morgan

When The Walking Dead debuted in 2010, comic book fans were still almost two years away from the expletive-spewing Negan. But once he showed up, fans began obsessing over what his TV incarnation would be like. Now that we know he’ll be played by the badassery that is Jeffrey Dean Morgan, it finally feels real, and the actor is now getting to talk about the role a little bit. As you can imagine, there are certain challenges involved in taking on this role, and here’s what Morgan thinks the biggest of those is.

I've kind of become accustomed to playing sort of the good guy. You know, maybe a rough exterior with a heart of gold in there somewhere. I think the challenge for me in this role is going to be: Is there any heart in Negan? And for me, I look at that as a challenge as an actor and that's the kind of thing I embrace and really look forward to.

I mean, we know that there is A heart inside of Negan, since he’s human and all. But as far as the emotionally-driven definition of “heart” goes, no one is going to say it’s oozing out of him. He’s probably got more food in his teeth than he has empathy for everyone around him, but there are definitely a few corners of Negan’s personality where lightness is found. Or at least slightly brighter shades of black and gray. Morgan will have to find that sweet spot of being murderously menacing, fun to watch, fear-inducing and minutely moral, without very much wavering.

As the leader of The Saviors, Negan is a cruel dictator, but he’s also kind of fair, so long as people do what they’re told. He’s also very much against rape happening within his community, although his love for women isn’t exactly the healthiest form of it. And, at least in the comics, he’s got an enjoyable uncle-ish relationship with Carl, which could definitely help out Carl’s story in the show. Obviously changes will be made in bringing the character to live-action, so there will probably be a few more areas for Negan to become a more rounded figure in terms of presenting heart and compassion.

Check out more of Morgan’s Negan-talk in the video below, taken at this year’s Supernatural convention in Pasadena. His foul mouth just makes his future in The Walking Dead all the more exciting.

We won't get to spend a ton of time with Negan until Season 7, but we'll get our introduction at some point at the end of Season 6. Next Sunday is the midseason finale, and we'll have to wait until the show returns on February 14 to see what else can go wrong for these people.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.