‘The Walking Dead’ Season 9 Features a Different Shade of Negan

18 months of solitary confinement will bring about a new kind of Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) in The Walking Dead Season Nine, says showrunner Angela Kang.

“Of course Negan is still Negan — he can’t help but say things that are snarky or kind of rough, but we’re gonna see some really different emotional shades to him. He’s essentially been in solitary confinement for a year and a half since the end of last season, and one of the stories that we’re exploring is what that’s done to him,” Kang disclosed to IGN.

“So that really shifts the nature of the interactions he has. The other thing we’ll be doing this season that I’m excited about is, there was so much during the war that was mano a mano with Rick and Negan, and this year we’re gonna see some other people have some really significant interactions with him that I hope are a little different and surprising.”

Alexandrian leader Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) defeated and jailed the dethroned Savior leader to bring Season Eight to a close, but despite Rick’s stewardship of the newly-united communities and ushering in of the new world, Negan’s cocky taunts continue through the bars of his cell: “You’re not saving the world,” Negan tells Rick in a just-released teaser, “you’re just getting it ready for me.”

Rick’s controversial decision to spare Negan instead of killing him as punishment for his crimes will continue to play out as a point of contention for several characters — namely Hilltop leader Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Rick’s pissed-off number two Daryl (Norman Reedus) — and with Rick’s exit on the horizon following the looming departure of Andrew Lincoln this half-season, Negan will form new antagonistic relationships with other characters.

“I’m getting to work with some people that I haven’t worked with yet on the show, which has been really exciting,” Morgan revealed at San Diego Comic-Con.

“I’ve been on the show for a couple years now, and I had a couple scenes with Norman and some with Andy, but other than that it’s been with Saviors that are all dead now,” he said. “So this year it’s kind of, I’m slowly being integrated into scenes with people I haven’t seen since I had them kneeling in front of me, which has been really interesting and fun.”

On Negan potentially finding redemption — and following the trajectory of his comic book counterpart, who underwent a change of heart and emerged as a sort of anti-hero following a multi-year prison sentence — Morgan said Negan coming back from his violent crimes is possible.

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“Look, I think that Negan probably did some things that are unforgivable in a lot of people’s eyes. I think in the world that we live in, in this apocalyptic Walking Dead world, I think you can come back from it,” Morgan said. “I don’t know how, I don’t know if, but I think first Negan has to survive what he’s going through right now — and I don’t know the what or if of that either — but there’s a different side to him certainly this year that we’re gonna see.”

The Walking Dead Season Nine debuts Sunday, October 7 on AMC.