Aaah Negan, you baseball bat wielding psychopath. We all knew this day would come, and indeed it did last month when it was officially announced that 'born to play the role' actor Jeffery Dean Morgan would be appearing towards the end of The Walking Dead season 6 as one of the biggest bads of the comic books: Negan.
Morgan is no stranger to the world of comic book adaptations; one of his better known roles is that of anti-hero The Comedian (Edward Blake) in Zack Snyder's 2009 adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' iconic graphic novel Watchmen. He's also set to appear in a minor role as Thomas Wayne, father of Bruce Wayne, in the upcoming [Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice](tag:711870) (directed by Snyder again, there's a theme here).
Morgan's Pretty Excited About Negan
Perhaps off the basis of his pretty faithful portrayal of The Comedian, who as a character rings very close thematically and personality wise to Negan himself, Morgan's name was being thrown around for the role in AMC's The Walking Dead for a few years now.
Being a comic book fan himself, Morgan started reading the series and when formally offered the role he knew immediately that he had to take it.
"I was like, "Absolutely. We’re going to f—ing do it!" And that was it. And literally a week later I was in Atlanta talking with the cast and hanging out...
Negan is special in a lot of ways and the more kind of digging I do into Negan, the more excited I get. I can’t tell you the last time I’ve been this giddy about doing a role. I think what’s there in the comic books and the graphic novels is this foundation of this man and the complexities of who he is."
The Adaptation Process
In his recent EW interview, in addition to waxing lyrical about how excited he is to be playing Negan on The Walking Dead, Morgan also dropped some hints regarding how we can expect to see the character adapted.
One of the great things about The Walking Dead is how they handle the translation from page to screen. It's rarely a completely faithful adaptation. Never exactly wholly true to its source material, the show rather engages in a brief flirtation with the text; taking plot points and stringing them along roughly in the same order, changing the story enough to make the two worth talking about as entirely separate texts.
So characters that are still alive in the show are dead in the books (and vice-versa), and other things are switched around (for example, it's Tyreese who is beheaded by the Governor outside the prison, not Hershel). The comics also include subplots that don't translate well into mainstream television - such as the affair between Andrea and Dale and the torture and rape of Michonne at the hands of the Governor, who also chops off Rick's hand when they first meet.
It's the translation to mainstream television that causes an issue when it comes to Negan. Adapting a popular comic into a highly successful television show is always going to involve a great deal of translation between the two medium and Negan does not lend himself well to mainstream television. He's brutal, violent and foul mouthed, yet also a charismatic leader who (usually) protects his own.
According to Morgan, AMC are striving to keep Negan "as close as humanly possible" to the comic book version, but certain aspects are going to have to be chopped and changed. Such as the above example, where Negan threatens to have his men rape Rick's son to keep him in line.
Whilst Morgan is aware that he's not going to be able to go 100% Negan in The Walking Dead portrayal, he's certainly going as far as he can with it, as he says in the EW interview:
"We’re going to push AMC — the plan is to push them as far as they can because it’s who Negan is. He uses some colorful language. And I use some colorful language. And reading the comic, it’s important. So we’ll see where that lands. It’s our intention that this character is going to leap off the pages of the comic book. It’s very important that that’s who it is."
And then of course there's the big Glen Rhee (Steven Yeun) question still needing answered, and in the comics his ultimate fate is all tied up with that of Negan, and a certain Lucille.
Even Morgan himself says he doesn't know what the end game is regarding Glen and Negan (though he has met Steven Yeun on set), so we'll just have to wait this one out and see what happens as the show continues to unfold.
Lastly, Morgan has met his Lucille, and of her he says:
"She is gorgeous. She is a beautiful girl."
Sounds like Morgan is more than ready to step on screen as the terrifying Negan, and he's expected to show up sometime towards the end of The Walking Dead Season 6.