Negan. Is. Coming.
Sunday’s Walking Dead‘s midseason finale — and subsequent winter premiere sneak peek — set the stage for Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s arrival as the dreaded villain. Below, showrunner Scott M. Gimple answers burning questions about last night’s big cliffhangers — namely, where the hell do Carol and Morgan go from here?! — and previews what’s to come, beginning with the Feb. 14 return through to Negan’s long-awaited debut.
TVLINE | I didn’t realize how much I liked Deanna until you killed her off.
It sometimes goes that way.
TVLINE | Did it go that way for you? Or did you know going in that this was going to be a tough character to say goodbye to?
Absolutely. I loved the character and I loved working with Tovah [Feldshuh]… That final shot of her screaming at this world, which I believe was an improvisation from Tovah, I just loved it. It was a wonderful ending for a character who caught up with the world and adjusted for it while still maintaining who they were. She started as a fighter, she ended as a fighter.
TVLINE | Was she killed off to help facilitate Michonne stepping up as even more of a leader in Alexandria?
Not specifically. [Deanna] is going to have a profound affect on Michonne, but I think it’s Maggie that might be changed in that direction.
TVLINE | The moment where it looked like an undead Deanna was going to devour Judith — safe to say that would’ve been too dark a twist even for The Walking Dead?
I don’t think something as intense and awful and disturbing as that could really be part of a random story. It would have to be part of a greater story. I wouldn’t take it off the table, but that would have to be a heck of a story to justify that kind of awfulness.
TVLINE | Now that Morgan and Carol have gone at it, is that in essence a death sentence for one or the other of them? Can they coexist after something like that?
They were shoved into a situation in that moment that was so loaded, it could’ve gone one of two ways. We saw one of the ways play out — they fought. But, just breaking it down, Morgan is not fully confident in his point of view. We saw him in Episode 7 conflicted, struggling, trying to hold on to that idea. Before he could come to an answer about it — boom — Alexandria has fallen and there’s Carol. There’s no choice but to get into this right now. That said, Carol could’ve pulled the trigger. She didn’t. Morgan isn’t killing the Wolf. To the people who say, “Morgan is keeping the Wolf alive — he’s as bad as the Wolf.” Well, Carol kept Morgan alive. They have a lot more in common than it would seem. At the end of 6.02, Carol was feeling the weight of everything she had done. She was sitting on those steps and crying. It isn’t simple badassery. The fight they had was born out of the fact that she didn’t pull to trigger on him.
TVLINE | Some fans are excited about Negan’s arrival. Others are worried because they think it signs Glenn’s death certificate. Are those who are afraid he’ll kill Glenn like in the comics right to be afraid?
Oh, boy. I feel like I’m on the [witness] stand. [Laughs] It’d be disingenuous of me to say, from a viewer’s point of view, that I wouldn’t be afraid. But what am I holding out hope for? That it isn’t going to be like that? And, man, if it isn’t going to be like that, then what is going to happen? I doubt it’s going to involve flowers. The fact that he’s coming is not going to mean great stuff for Rick’s group.
TVLINE | It’s tricky because even folks who are unfamiliar with the comics are aware of what Negan does to Glenn. Does that impact how you tell the story?
It does and it doesn’t. Six years in now, the audience is so smart that the obvious thing isn’t the obvious thing anymore. If you do it exactly like the comics, people might not be expecting that because we [have a tendency to] mix things up. It’s this completely psychological game… as far as the storytelling goes. You just try to tell the best story possible.
TVLINE | Is Negan going to be more despicable than the Governor? Is it a tossup?
In my opinion, The Governor is more despicable and damaged. Negan is terrifying in that he isn’t a psychopath. He’s charismatic and funny. And even sort of friendly. But he just kills, and it doesn’t bother him. He’s the star of his own movie and we’re all Red Shirts. He’s not nuts. But you can’t reason with him because he’s got it all worked out. He knows exactly the way the world works. And he’s the one in control. Negan also has a bizarre sense of empathy. He actually recognizes your bad luck in you running into him, yet it doesn’t change a damn thing. Robert [Kirkman] has created one of the great pop culture characters of the past 20 years. And we desperately want to get him right.
TVLINE | What was it like the first time you saw Jeffrey Dean Morgan embody Negan?
It was bizarre. It was just myself and Jeffrey and our great costumers. It was bizarre, because it was a long time coming. It’s important to say that we do things way ahead of when you see them air. There is a long road to [meeting] Negan. I don’t want people to expect to see him tomorrow.