It’s 97 degrees on a steamy June day in Senoia, Ga., but that’s not the only reason things are heating up on set of The Walking Dead. Negan has just arrived in Alexandria (for an episode that will air this Sunday on AMC). It’s time to take inventory, and… well, just take things. After all, that’s what Negan does. He takes things. It might be your life. It might be your guns. It might be your flat screen TV. It might be all of those things. He takes what he wants. And he enjoys it all waaaaaaay too much.
The same could be said for the man playing Negan, Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Sure, he has to suck down lemon-lime Gatorades between takes to keep from dehydrating in that leather jacket in the Georgia heat, but the actor is having a blast playing the charismatic big bad. And his castmates have noticed.
“He is having way too much fun,” nods Andrew Lincoln in mock disgust after they wrap a scene together in which Negan emotionally torments an Alexandrian who shall remain nameless. (Hint: It is someone not in the cliffhanger lineup of death.) But that’s not to say that Morgan always has the last laugh. “The other day he was smiling and carrying on so much he pulled a rib muscle,” laughs Lincoln, clearly relishing this story waaaaaay too much. “He doubled down in pain. I was like, ‘Yeah, take that motherf—er!’ And it wasn’t even during a take. It was a rehearsal!”
And Lincoln was not the only one who took delight in Morgan’s momentary pain. “Oh, everybody did!” says Lincoln, still beaming. “No one went to help him. We just went, ‘There you go. Suck it up, sunshine!’” (Norman Reedus confirms this account, especially Lincoln’s unbridled joy at the incident: “Andy was very excited that he hurt his rib and very excited that Jeffrey hurt himself. He was really into that.”)
Naturally, we asked Morgan for his take on what happened. “I’ve been fighting cramps,” says the actor. “I get horrible cramps midway through a scene, my ribs will cramp up or my legs or something. So I just had this contraction and I was trying to yell, and it made me buckle over. I was screaming at him and laughing at the same time. So I’m still laughing, and he thought it was hilarious. He’s like, ‘That’s what you get, you f—er! That’s what you get!’”
It was a small win for the man who plays Rick Grimes, a character that has not had a lot to smile about lately, unlike Morgan’s Negan, who is all smiles and bravado. “Yeah, it kills him that I’m having so much fun,” says Morgan, “I’m like, ‘It’s not me, Andy, that’s having fun — it’s Negan!’ But I mean, there’s a lot of that that goes back and forth in between takes, depending on the scene, of course. But there are other scenes that are so intense that there are days that the cast doesn’t even make eye contact until the end of the day, and I get it.”
And we get the joy out of seeing the guy playing Negan being on the receiving side of pain for a change rather than on the delivering end of it.
Watch Negan’s entrance to Alexandria above. And for more Walking Dead scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.
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