The Walking Dead aired its Here's Negan episode on Sunday night, an episode titled after a comic event by the same name. As the title promised, the AMC zombie series took a deep dive into the origins of Jeffrey Dean Morgan's Negan character and how his earliest days in the apocalypse lead him to become a cold-blooded leader who wields a baseball bat named after his wife Lucille. In bringing the story to life, the team behind The Walking Dead made the brilliant decision of bringing Negan actor JDM's real wife Hilarie Burton Morgan into the cast as Lucille -- offering the two talented actors a chance to shine together (which is exactly what they did).
"I work with my friends and so I do that intentionally because I like having a short hand with the people that I'm working with," Hilarie Burton Morgan tells ComicBook.com in an exclusive interview. She previously appeared on Extant, a series which also featured JDM, but the two never shared a scene until now. "To work with my spouse, like the person that I go to sleep with, and brush my teeth with, and cook with, and do all the things with, that took it to a whole other level. And if anything, I really had difficulty restraining myself and getting emotional because Lucille is supposed to be this bad-ass, like she's the tough one."
As the episode showed, Lucille was battling cancer into the apocalypse, a story pulled from the works of Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard's comics. The difference here was Lucille's battle continued into the start of the zombie apocalypse, rather than seeing her die just before the world apart as she did in the books.
"What really struck me when we first read the script is that Lucille doesn't turn into a flower," the actress says. "A lot of times when you see cancer depicted in film or television, the character, especially if it's a woman, becomes ethereal, and angelic, and soft. What was great about Lucille is that she never lost her edge. She never lost her moxie and her bravado. So much has been made of Negan's bravado, but she's got her own ego."
The episode has received rave reviews, deservedly so. As The Walking Dead went back into production and was one of the first titles to do so in the midst of the COVID pandemic, the series limited its cast and crew members for the six episodes it added to the tenth season. The bonus episodes came out of the gate a bit sluggish by comparison to the momentum the show had been building since Angela Kang took over as showrunner in Season 9 but Hilarie Burton Morgan and Jeffrey Dean Morgan teamed up to bring David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick's script to life under the direction of Laura Belsey. The now true Season 10 finale served as one of the show's best epsodes, which ComicBook.com chopped up with Hilarie Burton Morgan.
See the full interview with Hilarie Burton Morgan about The Walking Dead Episode 10x22 below!
ComicBook.com: The Here's Negan comic story, that's a story that Angela [Kang] expressed interest in adapting back when the comic first launched. Was you playing Lucille a consideration back then? When did this first come up as a conversation for you and your husband Jeffrey Dean Morgan?
Hilarie Burton: No one said anything to me about it until it was like go time. Jeffrey had interactions with fans, whether it's at the conventions or on social media where they'd been asking questions about Here's Negan and he has always been like, "Oh, I want Hilarie to play Lucille," which we all know our business is based on nepotism. And I would always second that. I was very territorial about it because if anybody's going to be kissing and crying on my husband, it's me.
And plus, Negan is such a dear part of our family. It's kind of infiltrated our whole life as somewheres Negan shows up to school and our daughter has little baseball bats that fans have made for her. Keeping that within the family has always felt really cool. But then when Angela and Scott Gimple called and asked Jeffrey if I would do it, kind of the gravity of the situation kicked in and it was like, "Oh God. Oh no. I can't mess this up."
Like, "Oh sh-t. I have to show up and kill it." So I was really, really nervous. I was really nervous and my husband was really sweet. The first day on set, he was like, "Hey, everybody. Isn't my wife great? Isn't she so wonderful?" And he laid it on nice and thick. These are all people that I've heard about, his coworkers for five years, but I'd never gone to set. So being able to meet all of them and see the people who used to spend more time with him than I ever have, it was nice. It was bring your wife to work day. It was so fun.prevnext
All in the Family
CB: You and Jeffrey have even been on a show together, Extant, but you have never had scenes together. This Walking Dead episode had some very intense and very deeply emotional sequences with you two together. Was it easier to do this because it's somebody you know and trust so well, or was it more difficult to tap into that stuff with somebody who you are so close with?
HB: I'm really lucky in my career that I don't really audition for work. I work with my friends and so I do that intentionally because I like having a short hand with the people that I'm working with. And so you'll see me work a lot with old co-stars from One Tree Hill, or White Collar, or other jobs that I've done. But to work with my spouse, like the person that I go to sleep with, and brush my teeth with, and cook with, and do all the things with, that took it to a whole other level. And if anything, I really had difficulty restraining myself and getting emotional because Lucille is supposed to be this bad-ass, like she's the tough one. She's the rock and Negan is the emotional one.
So, it was hard for me to reel it in and not be a big old crybaby. Look, when you look into those eyes and he's tearing up and telling you how great you are, it's hard not to give into that.prevnext
CB: Did you have any creative input on anything whether it was at choosing the green wig for Lucille, any of the dialogue, or anything like that? Did you have any conversations with Angela Kang, Scott Gimple, or other writers?
HB: Yeah, it was such a awesome, collaborative bunch. Angela has been a friend of our family's. Scott has been a friend of our family's for years, and so Angela was really wonderful about spending some time with me on Zoom beforehand and figuring out where Negan and Lucille lived and maybe what terrible desk job she was doing for a living to support them while he stayed home and played video games. We just sort of figured out those beats so that I would know them in my head and they don't necessarily matter to the story, but they mattered to how Lucille walks through life and how she presents herself.
So Angela was so generous with her time. And then when it came time to do the work with the crew, figuring out the look of Lucille, the hair and makeup team was so wonderful. They just kind of laid everything out and they're like, "Pick. What do you want?" The green wig definitely really popped because it's such a departure from the comic book and it really creates an iconic look where she's on her way to becoming a zombie whether she likes it or not. And whether that's through her offing herself or dying of natural causes, that's where she's headed. And so that kind of eerie green color foreshadows that. So, yeah. I mean, we had so much fun. Wardrobe and I had so much fun. It's not a job that I've gotten to do a whole lot and so every single bit of it was just a treat.prevnext
A Meaningful Role
CB: Portraying a character that's being treated for cancer, that's a tall order. That's a very serious subject matter. Did you do anything to prep for that aspect of this role? Do you have experiences with that for people you know or any personal source?
HB: Yeah. I mean, we've lost people in our community in Upstate New York who were really big personalities and people that we care about a lot. What really struck me when we first read the script is that Lucille doesn't turn into a flower. A lot of times when you see cancer depicted in film or television, the character, especially if it's a woman, becomes ethereal, and angelic, and soft. What was great about Lucille is that she never lost her edge. She never lost her moxie and her bravado. So much has been made of Negan's bravado, but she's got her own ego. The people that we have loved, that we have lost, also had those characteristics and they were tough, and funny, and layered, and they didn't lose their personality once they were diagnosed. So it was really important to me that Lucille stayed Lucille even after she was diagnosed.
CB: Sadly, the apocalypse gets the best of Lucille, but it was cool to see you get the full walker treatment! I would love to hear about what it was like to get zombified because that whole experience!
HB: I always kind of shied away from things that were edgy, like in your twenties when you're a young actor working, everybody wants to play like a heroin addict, and they want to do dark and edgy stuff, and be cool. To me, it was trying too hard and so I went the exact opposite route and I started doing Christmas movies because to me that seems like punk. It was like the uncoolest thing you could do. I've worn elf costumes and had to be in the North Pole and all that kind of stuff.
And so to go from that, to now turning into a really gross zombie. I mean, these chunks of things missing from my face, and the contacts that they put on me were horrific. They're terrifying. It was so fun. Normally I play characters that are in a pencil skirt. I played a lot of cops, or investigators and things like that, so to play a woman with no makeup, sitting around in her sweat pants, falling apart literally was really fun. I hope I get to do more of that.prevnext
CB: Who do you think if Lucille had not been dealt the hand she was dealt, if she were able to survive a bit longer into this apocalypse?
HB: I mean, I think that they would have fared very well together venturing out. The whole thing is you have to go out. You have to find other people. She tells him, "You have to go find other people," which after she dies, that's what he does. But had they been able to do that together, man, I'd like to think they'd be like the Beyonce and Jay-Z of the apocalypse just out there running shit.
CB: Now that you've entered this world and you've become a big part of it, any advice or hopes for Negan as Jeffrey takes this character into the final season of The Walking Dead?0comments
HB: Well, I mean, in this episode he plays three very different versions of Negan and I don't know very many actors that can pull that off in one hour of television, and to have them be so distinct from one another. So now that we've experienced that backstory in there in the last season, I get to catch the little glimpses of what he's working on at home just eavesdropping on him running lines.
There might be a fourth version of Negan that we haven't met yet and I hope he goes down swinging, man. I like aggressive Negan. I think the world needs that. Cathartic for all the rest of us because he does and says all the things that the rest of us are too shy to say.prev