Over the last six seasons, The Walking Dead has seen a number of its characters adapt to the new world order in different and interesting ways. Perhaps one of the most dramatic turns in outlook and demeanor has been seen in the shift undergone by Carol, as she has went from timid survivor of domestic abuse to one of Rick’s MVPs to, rather inexplicably, a woman in search of inner peace who abhors violence. But the extreme ups and downs of Carol’s journey in the series’ post-apocalyptic landscape have been an outlier in terms of the average character arcs seen on the show. For the most part, especially for the survivors who’ve been around since the beginning, there has always been some inkling of the sort of person each character might become lurking somewhere just beneath the surface. This was especially true of alpha males like Rick and, of course, the late Shane.
So as it becomes clear that the end of the world changes some more than others, it’s only natural to wonder just how much the zombie outbreak altered the personality of bat-swinging psycho Negan. For a character who made his introduction in the final moments of season 6, Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Negan certainly got everyone’s attention for reasons beyond the question of whose head he caved in as part of the contentious season finale. One of those reasons has to be the character’s distinct personality – which is a lot like Rick’s in that he’s authoritative and unafraid to speak his mind. On the flipside, though, he is far more playful in a cat toying with a mouse kind of way.
And even though the character and his background have been explored with greater depth in the comic books, there is a natural inclination to wonder about Negan and to ask who he was before the world went wonky and the dead walked among the living. That’s the question EW posed to Morgan recently while doing a photo shoot. The actor, in his character’s trademark black leather jacket and brandishing Negan’s beloved Lucille, responded that the character was probably not too different personality-wise from the way he is now. Morgan went on to describe his character as a “little bit of an a**hole and a little bit of a bully,” which probably isn’t too far off. Neither is Morgan saying Negan is that “d*** you went to high school with.”
As far as the man playing him is concerned, Negan seems to have seized upon the power he now enjoys not by adapting to a new and unforgiving world order, but by more fully embracing his true nature and being unafraid to let his red-scarfed freak flag fly. Morgan’s claims about Negan sound pretty spot on, despite the armchair psychology of it all and that fact that Negan is, well, you know, fictional.
At any rate, the degree to which the character seems to have captured the television-viewing audience’s attention is remarkable, given how little he was actually onscreen last season. With the show’s producers promising he’ll share the spotlight with Rick during season 7 and beyond, there’s a good chance the show will wander into Negan’s past and reveal more of what makes him tick.
The Walking Dead season 7 premieres on Sunday, October 23 @9pm on AMC.