The Walking Dead star Jeffrey Dean Morgan was excited to explore the unconventional relationship between Negan and Carl (Chandler Riggs) as scripted in Robert Kirkman's comic books, saying at San Diego Comic-Con he was anticipating bringing that material to screen before the teen Grimes was killed midway through season 8.
"There was a whole story that Robert wrote that I was excited to play, and it didn't pan out that way. It ended a bit abruptly," Morgan said during The Walking Dead's Hall H panel.
"Sometimes, you don't know what's going to happen. It's what keeps us on our toes. I think that relationship brought out something in both characters that we don't see in any other way. Those character traits that Carl brought out in Negan, I hope they're brought out some other way because I think that [contributed] a lot in humanizing Negan."
Morgan also revealed during Comic-Con Negan will share facetime this season with characters the ousted Savior leader has yet to interact with in significant ways, suggesting he would be sharing scenes with Michonne (Danai Gurira) and the widowed Maggie (Lauren Cohan).
Penning a sendoff to Riggs in February, Morgan admitted he would "forever be disappointed" the two actors wouldn't have the opportunity to bring to life Negan and Carl's comic book dynamic.
"Honestly... a huge reason I wanted so badly to join this band of misfits... was because I was such a fan of the Negan Carl relationship in the comics," Morgan wrote in an Instagram post. "That storyline was one of my favorites, as I know it was one of yours. I'll forever be [disappointed] we only scratched the surface of what could have been."
In the post-All Out War era of the comics, Carl frequently interacted with an imprisoned Negan who was jailed in Alexandria by Rick Grimes as retribution for his crimes.
In issue #127, the start of the A New Beginning story arc — serving as a basis for season 9 — it's revealed Carl would open up to Negan about the goings-on in his life, taking a trip to the jail and confiding in Negan he liked a girl before she exposed herself to Carl and other boys.
Despite Negan's respect for Carl and their confidant relationship, Carl maintained he still wanted to kill Negan for his actions, but respected Rick's decision to keep the villain jailed.
Executive producer Scott Gimple is on record as saying despite the major deviation from the comics that came with Carl's death, the show would continue to adapt comic book Carl's storylines for the TV show.
"We're committed to keep telling the story from the comic book. Yes, it's going to be different. And yes, Negan's relationship to Carl was a big part of the story moving forward, especially in the world changes we see early on. But, as usual, we do plan on telling those comic stories," Gimple told EW in December.0comments
"It just will have to be with different people and it's a different way to tell those same stories. But we hope to still fulfill what those stories do."
The Walking Dead season 9 premieres Sunday, October 7 on AMC.