Following calls for The Walking Dead to “unleash the Negan,” showrunner Angela Kang says Season 9 built towards a story that presents Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s former bad guy in a new light in Season 10. There the ex-Savior leader will stretch his legs on “work release,” having risked his life to save Michonne’s (Danai Guria) daughter Judith (Cailey Fleming) during last season’s vicious blizzard. Amid a growing sense of paranoia seeping into Alexandria caused by Alpha (Samantha Morton) and her Whisperers — concerns that have reached even Negan’s claustrophobic cell — Negan wants the chance to prove himself to Aaron (Ross Marquand) and other distrustful Alexandrians.
“I think Negan starts the season in a really interesting place,” Kang told EW. “We saw at the end of last season that he had earned a little bit of trust. So, when we start off this year, we’ll see that he’s almost a part of the future that is kind of like what Carl had envisioned.”
The late Carl (Chandler Riggs) spurred Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Michonne to push for a future that included a spared Negan, who is released during the day to perform supervised chores. “He’s doing work, but it is still as a prisoner,” Kang noted. “It’s more like he’s on work release.”
Audiences will also see what happens when Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) pairs Negan with a reluctant Aaron on a mission that takes them outside the walls of Alexandria.
“But from there, things really take some strange and hopefully interesting and exciting turns,” Kang teased. “I always say Negan is always thinking. Negan always has an edge. There’s an element of him that’s a little unpredictable. He knows what he needs to do to get what he needs in the moment. He’s very smart, he’s very wily, he’s very strong. So, we’re going to see a full range of stuff from Negan this year that hopefully will be as fun for the fans as it’s been for the writers to write it for Jeffrey to play.”
And Morgan, in his fourth full season as a cast member, is “just killing it as always,” Kang said.
Whether or not the survivors want to admit they need Negan’s help — early photos from the season teased a tense confrontation between an uncaged Negan and Daryl (Norman Reedus) — Morgan says he’d “love” teaming up with Negan’s former enemies.
“I think that, moving forward, our group is in big trouble with the Whisperers, much more trouble than they were in with Negan and the Saviors. And if I think if someone can step forward and help, it’s Negan,” Morgan said on Talking Dead’s Season 10 Preview Special. “Will our group be open to that? I mean, honestly, I don’t know what’s in Angela or [TWD chief content officer Scott] Gimple’s mind and what they have in store. But I would love to see him get a chance to work with our group. Just give him the chance.”