The Walking Dead’s Greg Nicotero received a playfully foul-mouthed text from Negan star Jeffrey Dean Morgan after the director-producer called newcomer villain Alpha (Samantha Morton) the series’ best villain yet.
“I did an interview a couple of months ago where I said Alpha was the greatest villain The Walking Dead has ever seen. Five minutes later, I got a text from Jeffrey Dean Morgan that said, ‘Hey, motherf—!’” Nicotero told Atlanta Magazine with a smile during a Walking Dead-themed Super Bowl party attended by Morgan and co-star Norman Reedus.
“I’m like, ‘Dude, you know I love you. You know I love Negan, but the show has evolved and changed.’”
Alpha is the merciless leader of the Whisperers, territorial human survivors who disguise themselves within the skinned flesh of the dead. As this new threat emerges in the back half of the season, launching next Sunday, Daryl, Michonne (Danai Gurira) and the others will “have to erase everything about how they’ve learned to survive.”
“For me, I love the terrifying aspect of [the Whisperers],” Nicotero said of the villains, comparable to the expressionless killers made famous by The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween.
“It’s like Leatherface and Michael Myers, they have these faces that don’t move, so there’s this weird, detached approach. They look you in the eyes, but you don’t know what thinking or what they’re feeling.”
For all his faux indignation, Morgan agrees the Whisperers are a threat to be reckoned with.
“The Whisperers are badass, we’re excited. That’s a formidable foe,” Morgan said at San Diego Comic-Con in July, where The Walking Dead Season Nine debuted its first trailer.
“They’re definitely, I think, more screwed up than Negan. Negan’s a bit of a mess, but these guys take it to a whole ‘nother level, the Whisperers, so I think it’s kind of exciting.”
As the role of lead villain shifts to Alpha from Negan — who has spent the entirety of Season Nine jailed in the Alexandria prison, where he remained for nearly eight years before his fortuitous escape in the mid-season finale — Negan could potentially take steps toward his redemption, helped along in part by a growing dynamic with Judith Grimes (Cailey Fleming).
“50 percent of the people are ready for Negan to meet a grisly end, and the other 50 percent are liking Negan and want to see, certainly, what else can happen there,” Morgan said on The Rich Eisen Show in September.0comments
“I think they’re hoping for some redemption. And in the comic book, there is a slight amount of redemption. I don’t know how we’ll follow that story and if we will, because we do switch it up from the comic book to keep people that are fans of the comic interested in the show. But it’s certainly been an interesting year playing the different sides and finding new shades of Negan, and I very much have enjoyed that.”
The Walking Dead returns with new episodes Sunday, February 10 on AMC.