If you want to know what it’s like to be cast as one of the biggest villain in all of television, just ask Jeffrey Dean Morgan about his audition story. The actor was cast as Negan on AMC’s The Walking Dead, and the character was on full display last Sunday when the show returned for Season 7. The brutal, disturbing premiere shocked fans over how aggressive Negan was as a baddie, and Morgan said he was determined to play the villain once he’d been offered the job.
Morgan told The Hollywood Reporter that everything started with a phone call. “I was in middle of shooting The Good Wife and the phone rang. It was my agent saying I'd been offered to play the lead villain on The Walking Dead. Because I'm a fan of the show, I asked the villain's name and because it was a secret, I knew immediately: ‘It's f—ing Negan and I'm f—ing doing it.’”
The actor continued, saying, “That was literally it. My agent called Walking Dead and five minutes later I was on the phone with showrunner Scott Gimple saying, "Let's make it [the timing] work." It was just about getting two days off in the middle of filming The Good Wife and we made it happen. And here I am.”
After being cast, Morgan had just three days to get his character under control before heading to set. His first day on The Walking Dead saw Morgan reciting 12 pages worth of dialogue in one of the most emotionally charged scenes in the show’s history.
"I was a little bit nervous, kind of, going in," Morgan told fans at San Diego Comic Con, "but before I walked out I had this weird, kind of, calm. This role for me is something special.”
The actor also told ComicBook.com during a one-on-one interview a bit more about his first days on set as Negan.
"It's a big scene," Morgan explained. "You're not gonna be like, 'Oh, I have to feel that out.' I felt pretty okay all things considered. I just got thrown in. The first two days, everybody was like, 'Well, I hope that works out for ya,' and it really did. It's amazing. It's no bullshit that this cast is amazing. It's a family deal, they've got the support, but Negan talks a lot. There's something about getting Kirkman's words down and fiddling with it but it's great. It's f---ing cool."
Now that Season 7 is underway, fans will be seeing a lot more of Negan and his terrifying tactics. Fans are both excited and wary to see what the villain has in store, but Morgan has challenged fans to think about Negan as a sort of hero.
“If we followed Negan's story for the last seven years, he'd be our hero, and someone like Rick, who rips the throat out of people, would be the bad guy,” Morgan told CinemaBlend. “No matter who Negan kills, Rick and his survivors still killed 20 or 30 of my men. So, yeah, we keep kind of forgetting about that in the evilness that is Negan.”
The Walking Dead airs on Sundays at 9 PM ET on AMC.
[H/T] The Hollywood Reporter