Speaking to EW, Morgan explained his "Negan-isms" — like the leather jacket-wearing bad guy's tendency to dip back into a lean while speaking — slipped into his performance, the accidental carryover a result of putting in work on Rampage during the eight-month shoot on Walking Dead.
That busy schedule on the zombie series nearly kept him from joining the Dwayne Johnson-led blockbuster waiting-to-happen, Morgan said, but with both productions shooting in Georgia, the actor could do both; and his busy schedule lead to a tired Morgan interjecting some of the larger-than-life Negan into Russell.
"When I was watching the movie the other night, I saw a couple body movements that look kind of familiar, a little lean here and there,” Morgan said. “I was like, ‘Oh man, there could have been a little slop over there between Negan and Russell.’”
Morgan trades in his barbwire-wrapped baseball bat for a badge in Rampage, where he stars as Harvey Russell, an OGA (Other Government Agency) agent tasked with helping Davis Okoye (Johnson) save Chicago from giant, stories-high monsters.
The video game adaptation gave Morgan the chance to star as a good guy, a refreshing change for an actor worried his scene-stealing tenure as ultimate villain Negan on The Walking Dead might typecast him in the eyes of audiences.
“I think now as soon as I walk onto the screen, people are like, ‘Uh, oh, he’s going to be the baddie,'” Morgan said. “I don’t know that I would want to be a villain right now in anything other than what I’m doing."
“I worry that with The Walking Dead, people will only know me as Negan because it’s such a pop culture phenomenon of a show and character,” he explained.
“People have forgotten about all my other work as soon as I became Negan and they seem genuinely surprised that I don’t carry Lucille around and torture people in real life. So yeah, let me do something different.”
That aim to do something new aligned with a lifelong desire to take part in a monster movie, an opportunity he gleefully accepted when approached for Rampage.
“I grew up watching like Godzilla and King Kong, so one of the reasons I became an actor was so I could do a monster movie,” Morgan said.
“I hadn’t gotten to do a monster movie yet, and then, you throw Dwayne into the mix and I know his track record, he’s got a little bit of a Midas touch going, so it seemed like a no-brainer.”
Starring in a film alongside a 30-foot ape and accompanying oversized wolf and crocodile means "embracing the ridiculousness of it all," Morgan said, adding, "if you can embrace it, that's what makes the movie work. And I absolutely embrace all that — it's f-king killer."
"For me to be able to come in with zero pressure and just have some fun and kind of chew up a little scenery, that’s a great time for me.
"It really is a dream gig, just come in and have fun. That’s what moviemaking should be," Morgan added. "I don’t know, I think this might be my deal. I like doing monster movies. I don’t need to win an Oscar [laughs]. I like having fun.”1comments
The actor is hopeful he'll one day don the cape and cowl of Batman, albeit an alternate universe version, saying the role would be "the thrill of a lifetime."
Rampage is now playing. The Walking Dead airs its season 8 finale Sunday, April 15 at 9/8c on AMC.