The Walking Dead star Jeffrey Dean Morgan admits former Savior leader Negan, introduced in the Season 6 finale, was a repetitive and "very one-dimensional" character in Seasons 7 and 8. It wasn't until Season 9, post-All Out War and under the stewardship of Angela Kang — who inherited showrunning duties from now TWD chief content officer Scott Gimple — that Negan became a three-dimensional character. Rounded out through his friendship with Judith Grimes (Cailey Fleming) and his dynamic with keeper Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam), the former bat-swinging bad guy has taken shape as an anti-hero. That ongoing transformation, still unfolding in Season 10, has Morgan feeling "really grateful."
"I thought the first couple of years that we knew Negan was very one-dimensional. To me, when Negan came out of the RV for the first time, we didn't learn anything about him for two years, three years. And that was hard," Morgan said at Walker Stalker Con Atlanta. "I felt like everything that I said coming out of that RV is sort of what I said for the next two years, and never shifted. I think with the introduction of Judith, and that relationship, we got to see a little different side of him."
Pieces of Negan's backstory came to light in Season 8, where Negan confessed sins to Gabriel when opening up about his late wife, Lucille. The namesake of his beloved barbwire-wrapped baseball bat was mentioned again in conversation with Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh).
Morgan, who has pushed for a Negan movie since 2016, remains hopeful TWD Universe will one day bring Negan's origin story to screen. Creator Robert Kirkman detailed that origin in 'Here's Negan,' a prequel to his time in The Walking Dead comic book.
"There's been pieces that he's been able to kind of throw out — we never have done the episode of how Negan became Negan, unfortunately — and maybe we will, I don't know," Morgan said. "But with Judith's help and a couple other characters, now Negan is more of a three-dimensional character."
In Season 10, Negan spends more time outside of the jail cell he's called home for nearly eight years, appearing opposite characters like Aaron (Ross Marquand), Lydia (Cassady McClincy), Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Whisperer Beta (Ryan Hurst). These character interactions help make for a surprising new Negan this year.
"I think this year, with everything we've learned about him, it gives me the opportunity to do a lot more as an actor. And I think it'll give you guys a lot more opportunity to get to know who Negan is, and that's been great," Morgan said. "You may hate it, I don't know, but I am having a good time. I like being able to play a more whole character."
Negan next plays a central role in 10x04, "Silence the Whisperers," premiering Sunday, Oct. 27 on AMC.
New episodes of The Walking Dead Season 10 premiere Sundays at 9/8c on AMC. For more TWD intel, follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter.