Jeffrey Dean Morgan believes big bad Negan isn't too far gone and can be redeemed — and his atonement might be helped along by new interactions with undisclosed characters.
"I think to a certain degree, certainly," Morgan told TV Line when asked if the imprisoned former Savior leader is capable of being redeemed.
"Look, I think that Negan probably did some things that are unforgivable in a lot of people's eyes. I think in the world that we live in, in this apocalyptic Walking Dead world, I think you can come back from it. I don't know how, I don't know if, but I think first Negan has to survive what he's going through right now — and I don't know the what or if of that either — but there's a different side to him certainly this year that we're gonna see."
Negan's year-plus prison sentence will make for a very different Negan in season 9, Morgan said during San Diego Comic-Con. Other comments made by Morgan suggest Negan will share face time with Michonne (Danai Gurira) and widowed Hilltop chief Maggie (Lauren Cohan), who could be headed towards a confrontation with her husband's murderer.
"I'm getting to work with some people that I haven't worked with yet on the show, which has been really exciting," Morgan added. The actor teased Negan shares scenes with characters he hasn't come face-to-face with since first entering the show in its season 6 finale in 2016.
"I've been on the show for a couple years now, and I had a couple scenes with Norman [Reedus] and some with Andy [Lincoln], but other than that it's been with Saviors that are all dead now," he said. "So this year it's kind of, I'm slowly being integrated into scenes with people I haven't seen since I had them kneeling in front of me, which has been really interesting and fun."
Across seasons 7 and 8, Negan menaced Daryl and Rosita (Christian Serratos) and plotted with temporary henchman-slash-bullet maker Eugene (Josh McDermitt), but mostly spent time with not-so-loyal Saviors Dwight (Austin Amelio) and Simon (Steven Ogg).
In the comics, Negan received repeat visits from Carl Grimes while caged in the Alexandria jail, scenes now expected to be altered or abandoned following the death of Carl's TV counterpart (Chandler Riggs). In December, The Walking Dead executive producer and former showrunner Scott Gimple said Carl's comic book storylines will still be adapted for the television show, but remixed and told with other characters.
"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," he told EW.
"But, as usual, we do plan on telling those comic stories. 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 debuts its season 9 premiere Sunday, October 7 on AMC.