Jeffrey Dean Morgan Fought Against Saying a Negan Line in The Walking Dead Premiere

Jeffrey Dean Morgan reveals the only line he fought against Negan saying in the Season 11 premiere of The Walking Dead. Spoilers for TWD Season 11 Episode 1, "Acheron: Part 1." Negan guides a group of survivors through the D.C. Metro on a critical mission to save a starving Alexandria, where Maggie (Lauren Cohan) used to live with Glenn (Steven Yeun) before Negan bat-bludgeoned her husband to death. Suspicious that the vengeful widow and accomplice Daryl (Norman Reedus) are luring him into the subway tunnel to die, Negan challenges dying on Maggie's terms: "I am not gonna let you drag me through the mud, filth, and slime to put me down like a dog. Like Glenn was."

"I fought it! That's the one line that I immediately called [showrunner Angela Kang] and I was like, 'I can't say it. I can't f---ing bring up Glenn's name here,'" Morgan told Entertainment Weekly. "And I was like, 'Any goodwill that Negan has gotten on his side is going to go out the window the minute I say Glenn.' I tried to nix the line completely."

"I didn't think it was necessary. And I thought, for sure, they would let me change it. And so I filmed it three or four different ways," added Morgan of the episode scripted by Kang and co-writer Jim Barnes. "I tried everything else. I said, 'Your husband' and other stuff. But ultimately it was like, 'Well, let's just try the f---ing Glenn line.' And then, of course, when I saw the cut, I was like, 'Oh, f---ers!' [Laughs] They had to put it in."

Morgan points out the line — which earns Negan another fist to the face from Daryl — is necessary "to elicit the reaction exactly that you and I felt in seeing it."

"I always have said that regardless of what Negan does that is good, there is still that Negan inside of him," said Morgan, whose character has evolved from villain to anti-hero in the years since being defeated and jailed by Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) to end Season 8. "And at this point in the story, when that line comes out, it's kind of that whole speech where I am like, 'Why the f---are we following this woman? I'm living in her head, and she's leading us to our deaths.' We have no idea what we're going to. Negan is the voice of reason suddenly. And had he not said that Glenn line, the whole audience would've gone, 'He's right! He's f---ing right!' The minute I say that Glenn line, 50% of them, I lose immediately. It doesn't matter if he's right."

Negan mutters to himself, "You're in on it," referring to Daryl, but later realizes that Maggie is acting alone in her suspected plot to kill him "away from the prying eyes of Alexandria." The line, bringing to mind Glenn's brutal death at the end of a barbed wire-wrapped baseball bat in the Season 7 premiere, "also lent itself to Daryl having his punch at me, which we were kind of leading up to, too."

"Because I think Negan is thinking the whole time that Daryl is in on this. And that really, the only reason that he's there is to be killed. And he's sure that Daryl is in on it," Morgan explained. "So there's that little storyline going on there between the two of us, as well. But yeah, when I first read that line, I was like, 'Goddamnit!' [Laughs]"

The episode ends with another Negan shocker when the group, swarmed by subway walkers in a tunnel choking point, leaves Maggie behind to die. "Acheron: Part 1" ends with Maggie losing her grip when scrambling to safety atop a subway car, seemingly falling to her death to be torn apart by waiting walkers below.

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That episode-ending cliffhanger is resolved in "Acheron: Part 2," now streaming on AMC+ ahead of its August 29 premiere on AMC.

Follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter for all things TWD Universe. The Walking Dead Season 11 airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.