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The Walking Dead's Jeffrey Dean Morgan Shares Unpleased Thoughts About How Negan Spinoff News Was Handled

Negan worried on The Walking Dead
(Image credit: AMC)

Even though one of pop culture's biggest juggernauts from the last decade is coming to a close soon, The Walking Dead’s overall presence isn’t going away, thanks to AMC’s spinoff-focused plans for the future. (Not to mention oodles of merch from beyond the TV series.) Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s blood-spatted legacy as reformed villain Negan will continue beyond the flagship drama’s conclusion for the New York City-set spinoff that’s now called The Walking Dead: Dead City. As awesome as it’s been to know the actor and co-star Lauren Cohan will carry the torch for the limited series, the announcement’s timing didn’t seem ideal at the time, and Morgan has shared some less-than-approving (though completely SFW) thoughts about AMC maybe having botched that roll-out. 

Fans were made privy to the news that Negan and Maggie would be teaming up for a follow-up project, then called Isle of the Dead, back in March, before Season 11’s middle eight episodes were finished airing. The move in some ways removed all reason to worry about either of the characters’ fates for the remainder of the season, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan told EW he doesn’t think that was the right move, while acknowledging it was far from his call to make.  

That's not the way we should have gone about it. But this is how it was chosen to play out. And who knows? Maybe we couldn't have kept the secret. But it seems to me we could have given it a shot. I would've tried to go about it in a different way, but look, that's above my pay grade.

If anything, one would have thought AMC and the Walking Dead team might have chosen to keep that reveal under lock and key at least until San Diego Comic-Con came around, although I guess I understand that the Rick and Michonne limited series news took precedence in that specific instance. Even if that happened, though, it still wouldn’t have reversed the fact that the entire fandom is aware that Negan and Maggie are living and breathing when Season 11 wraps. (Unless they go full supernatural and it’s actually Maggie’s ghost that’s following Negan around in Dead City like a vindictive guardian angel.) 

Weirdly, not even some of The Walking Dead’s top brass had any pull in saying when the spinoff news should go public. Director, effects master, and executive producer Greg Nicotero says he was surprised himself to hear that the announcement was being unveiled so early. In his words:

We were a little surprised. Because we thought, 'Well, that could mean that certain characters are going to live, and now there's a little bit less jeopardy involved knowing that. I think even Jeffrey was a little like, 'Well, okay, I guess the cat's out of the bag and we don't have to worry about anything happening to Negan or Maggie because they've already announced a spin-off.'

Considering both Maggie and Negan survived in the comics, and have become as beloved as anyone else in the Walking Dead's live-action canon, I dare say a lot of fans wouldn't have been too worried about either of them getting killed off on TV anyway. But there was at least the chance that such shocking outcomes could play out, which isn't the case now.

On a more positive note that won't immediately be clear by the end of this first sentence: Jeffrey Dean Morgan revealed there was a point in time, ahead of the spinoff concept being revealed to him, that he was ready to hang Negan’s leather jacket up for good. But fans can take some comfort in knowing that he was convinced to flip that idea around due to how good the story for Dead City was. So here's hoping it's not only worth the long wait, but also the semi-spoiled storylines. 

Check out the SDCC trailer for The Walking Dead's final episodes below. 

The Walking Dead’s final eight episodes will begin airing on AMC on Sunday, October 2, at 9:00 p.m. ET. Head to our 2022 premiere schedule to see what else the ongoing Fall TV season has to offer.

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.