‘Walking Dead’ Star Jeffrey Dean Morgan: ‘Negan Is Not A Bad Guy’

The terrifying Walking Dead villain Negan is not a bad guy–he’s just doing what he has to do to get by in the zombie apocalypse.

That is the assessment of Jeffrey Dean Morgan, the actor who superbly plays Negan, which he offered during last night’s rain-soaked Season 7 premiere Talking Dead after show which featured almost all the members of the apparently close-knit cast.

Last night’s bloody and gripping season opener of The Walking Dead at long last revealed who would get up close and personal with Lucille, Negan’s barbed-wire covered baseball bat.

[Spoilers follow]

As the Inquisitr more or less previously predicted, Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) was the first to go. A second victim, fan favorite Glenn (Steven Yuen), was a shock, especially since he faked-died in Season 6, although his demise at the hands of Negan is faithful to the graphic novel.

The Internet’s reaction to the episode was mixed, with many feeling that the episode as presented should have been the Season 6 finale rather than the resolution of a six- or seventh-month cliffhanger. Some felt it was excessively gruesome. “This wasn’t quality television, and it wasn’t suspenseful drama. It was torture-porn masquerading as storytelling, and AMC should be ashamed for airing it,” The Verge asserted.

The episode also agonizingly teased/trolled viewers about whether Negan was actually going to chop someone’s arm off (in the comic, it’s Rick’s but on the show it was almost Carl), but fortunately, the showrunners didn’t go there, at least not yet.

During the Talking Dead exchange, host Chris Hardwick, in suggesting that hero Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) has engaged in morally ambiguous if not villainous behavior himself, asked Morgan how he approached the role of Negan.

In addition to his response, Morgan joked about who was responsible for Glenn’s death, which prompted a huge reaction from the audience and the assembled cast on the stage.

“I can’t play him like (a bad guy) certainly, because then you’d have only one note to go with…in my mind, he’s not a bad guy. He’s still letting these guys off easy at this point…remember, they took out quite a few of my folks, and if it weren’t for Daryl, Glenn would still be alive.”

Indeed, one of the hallmarks of The Walking Dead is very bad decision making with often far-reaching and devastating outcomes. Recalling Season 6, why in the world was Dr. Denise, the only person left with medical training in the Alexandria Safe Zone, allowed to go on a dangerous supply run?

As a direct result of the demise of Dr. Denise on that excursion, Team Rick was forced to leave the ASZ and make the perilous run to Hilltop with the ailing Maggie, which ultimately drove them into the arms of Negan, the leader of the extortion-and-murder cult known as the Saviors who have opportunistically seized on the zombie apocalypse to create their own criminal enterprise.

As Jeffrey Dean Morgan alluded to above, Rick’s decision in the first place to unleash a murderous sneak attack on Negan’s outpost as part of a deal with Hilltop, without knowing the full ramifications, was fundamentally flawed.

As io9 noted along these lines, “everything that happened with Negan is 100 percent Rick’s fault. If Rick hadn’t picked this fight—if he hadn’t had such hubris as to attack an unknown force—Glenn and Abraham would be alive right now… It detracts from Negan’s character too, because in a sense he was justified in punishing Rick’s group because they murdered a bunch of his guys first and without provocation.”

In an Q&A conference call, Michael Cudlitz revealed that the Abraham/Glenn beat down was actually filmed a year ago, and it was necessary to keep it a secret all this time, including making excuses about why he was in Los Angeles instead of Georgia so much. The rumor that a death scene was filmed for each character and that the cast was unaware who was officially Lucilled in the edited episode was just a form of misdirection, Entertainment Weekly reported.

What did you think of The Walking Dead Season 7 premiere and the performance of Jeffrey Dean Morgan as bad guy (or not) Negan?

[Featured Image by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP Images]