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The Walking Dead: Jeffrey Dean Morgan on finale cliffhanger

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Gene Page/AMC

[SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched Sunday’s The Walking Dead season finale, “Last Day on Earth.”]

Negan has arrived. And he has a lot to say. We’re not just talking about that little speech he gave Rick Grimes and co. on the season finale of The Walking Dead, but what the man playing him thinks about joining the show.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan took part in a conference call with reporters to share his thoughts on the arrival of his new villain Negan, as well as the controversial cliffhanger that ended the season with us not knowing whose brains he bashed in with his barbed wire covered baseball bat. Here are some highlights from the chat:

On whether we will see what made Negan whom he is now:

“I talked to [comic creator] Robert Kirkman [on Sunday night] after we did Talking Dead and he is kind of doing the backstory of Negan now, so whether or not or when we see that — I hope we do, I can’t answer that. I know when season 7 kicks off it’s going to kick off directly from where we left it; that’s about all I know as a fact at this point. But hopefully we’ll find out more about Negan as we go. I mean, I think his backstory is going to be pretty fascinating.

On whether they show will pick right back to see who was killed:

“That would be the hope, yeah. That’s the impression I have, that we will pick up directly from what we saw [in the finale]; that season 6 ended on that note and season 7’s going to pick up right where we left off. So, yeah, you’re going to see who’s at the end of that bat, and what happened from there.”

On shooting his big scene:

“I think it was a little bit tense. For me it all happened very fast: I think I got the script two days before I shot it and I only got that piece, I only got Negan’s stuff, so I didn’t get the whole script. But I think, for obvious reasons, the cast of the show was understandably agitated. … I think agitated is a fair word — it was a very emotional two nights and I think you saw it on the actors’ faces.

“For me it was about learning a monologue and trying to portray a character that I haven’t gotten to play a whole lot of in my career, and I was just trying to find that groove of Negan, which I only had 2 days to do it, and that’s a hell of an introduction for somebody, just to come in. And it was very emotional, that’s what I’ll say, it was emotional for the whole cast, and a couple of them didn’t make eye contact with me until the end of the second night, and a couple of them on the same note embraced me immediately and were texting me after we filmed all night. But I’d say the overall view was people were emotional. It was an emotional time.”

On whether he thought the cliffhanger was necessary:

“Well, I didn’t know it was going to be a cliffhanger until I watched the show. That’s just how it was done in my world. I don’t know if any of the cast knew exactly how it was going to end, which kind of caused a lot of the uncertainty and emotion that was going on. That said, in talking to Scott and Robert [after the finale], I think that their explanation was that it was the end of the story for that season, and that Rick has lost control and there’s Negan, and Negan has all the control.

“And I think that’s where they wanted to end the story, and it’s not about the death of that person, and then the death of the person is going to kick off season 7, and season 7 will be a big part of, obviously, who is on the receiving end of Lucille? I understand the fans’ frustration, I get that; that being said … I have to trust these writers and showrunners. They know what they’re doing; a lot of people watch for 6 seasons, and I believe that they’ll be back to see who met Lucille and as the story continues to grow.”

On whether he is playing Negan as a bad guy:

“He’s not a bad guy for me. That’s how I’ve always approached him. I’ve played a couple bad guys in my life, and I have a lot of fun with it, but I never approach it like he’s the bad guy. I approach it like he’s a guy. I mean, the zombie apocalypse has taken over the world. I think the backstory of Negan is that he used to be a used car salesman. That’s what I know and there’s not a whole lot beyond that.

“I think Kirkman’s working on it now. I don’t have a whole lot to go with, but he’s a car salesman and he has survived as long as Rick and his gang. In order to do that, what has he done to get there? We’ve seen what Rick has done to get there and keep his people alive and become the leader he has become, and there’s probably some very strong parallel lines between Negan and his story. We were talking last night on the Talking Dead, and you think about how many people Rick has killed to get to where he is and the fact that Negan’s only taken out… Rick just killed 20 of men, so I feel like Rick’s getting off real easy here. Luckily, Negan’s got a lot of story yet to come. We just met the guy so it’s going to be an interesting road. I know a little bit, and I know certainly what I know from the comics, and I’m anxious to really delve into it. We’ll see.

“We’re going to see Negan do some stuff in a year or two that is not going to be very nice, and I may have to approach that from different angles, but we’ll see. I haven’t gotten there yet. It’s been so much on the fly right now and I’ll really delve into this after I wrap the Good Wife. That’s when I’ll have time to really figure out Negan and do some more thinking on it.

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On whether he has read Negan’s storyline in the comics:

“Yeah, I know a little bit. I know kind of where we’re going and I’ve got a stack of the Walking Dead comics right next to my bed here. I think we’re going to stick pretty close to what you see in the graphic novel with this character because he’s so iconic in this world. His storyline is going to stay true [to that]. From what I understand talking to Scott Gimple and Robert Kirkman, we’re going to keep it pretty close. I think that’s something to be able to look forward to, because it’s a great storyline.”

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