'Walking Dead's' David Morrissey on Governor's Fate: He Got What He Deserved
The actor talks with THR about his character's brutal exit from the zombie drama.
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from "Too Far Gone," The Walking Dead's season four midseason finale.]
AMC's The Walking Dead parted ways with its biggest villain to date during Sunday's season four midseason finale.
During "Too Far Gone," David Morrissey's the Governor led a brutal and bloody attack on Rick's community in an effort to find a safer home for his new family and group. After taking Hershel (Scott Wilson) and Michonne (Danai Gurira) hostage, the Governor gave Rick (Andrew Lincoln) an ultimatum to vacate the prison. However, after both Hershel and Rick attempted to persuade him that both groups could coexist at the prison, the Governor saw red and decapitated the elder statesman in front of both groups.
It set the stage for Lilly, who earlier in the hour questioned her new love interest's moral center, to deliver the fatal shot that ended the Governor's life after Michonne saved Rick's life and stabbed the eye-patched villain.
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Morrissey in London to discuss the Governor's fate and having his own Death Dinner alongside Wilson.
What were the conversations like when you learned that the Governor was returning for season four? Did you know he'd have such a limited run?
I knew I wouldn't get to the end of the season but didn't know how limited it would be. I had a word with [showrunner] Scott [Gimple] but I didn't know when he would die or if I would get to episode nine or 10. I had an idea that it would be a good time to go in the midseason finale, and they need to do some big stuff in those episodes. But I wasn't sure until I read the script, and that's when I knew.
Did you know you'd only really be in three episodes?
I didn't. Scott said I'd come in to the season late, but I didn't know when or how late. But he said episode four or five, so I had a ballpark figure in my head about when. But he wasn't specific about how many episodes I'd be in. I didn't know it would be three or four. I knew I wouldn't get to the end of the season. None of us know until we actually read the episodes how long we've got. I only knew that I was going just before the delivery of episode eight. That's when I knew.
What was the conversation like when you found out the Governor would be killed off in the midseason finale?
I did get the death call [from Scott] and it's always a sad one. I knew the Governor wasn't someone who was going to be in it forever. I was very sad because I loved being in the show and working with everybody. Then the double whammy of also being the person who brings Scott Wilson's participation to an end was really heavy. All the episodes are all very demanding and shocking, and we had that at the end of last season when Laurie Holden (Andrea) and Michael Rooker (Merle) were both killed. It's something we go through on The Walking Dead and it's hard when it's other people, but it's just as tough when it's yourself.
Rick tried desperately to persuade the Governor that they could coexist, but the Governor calls him a liar. How much of that was a nod to his attempts to live a peaceful life free of attachments?
It's all about the natural character that one has. The Governor did attempt to turn around and be good and find that family. But once he tries to escape the camp and take the girls with him, he sees that he can't fight this, and he has to confront what's out there rather than run away. He's a different man after episode seven. He knows he's not going to be a diplomat and accept compromise; he's much more of an old conquering man, so it has to be absolute. Once he sees the futility that Megan has died, that death and destruction is all around, it becomes this psychotic place he lives in. And he's in that place of total destruction, so once Michonne kills him, there's a sense that if he's going to go down, he's going to take as many people as he can. I hope he's been a complex character in the sense that you see, following the external battle he wages against the world and the internal battle he wages within himself, that's what I want from the character, and I think that's what the writers have delivered.
Considering his attempts to start over this season and live a peaceful life, do you think the Governor got what he deserved?
Yes, I think he probably did. There are things that he has done that certainly lack compassion and love, but I still think there could have been times in his journey where he could have taken a different option and he could have gone with the best part of himself rather than worst part of himself. The tragedy of him is that he never took those decisions. I never wanted him to be a cartoon baddie, which was just a man doing evil things; I wanted to show a man who you felt could have redemption inside. Maybe if he met someone like Lilly earlier or if he'd listened to a different side of himself he would have been redeemed in some way. But in the end, I think he did get what he deserved. I was very happy that the person who ended his life was Lilly and not Michonne. Michonne condemned him into being a zombie and was very happy to leave him in that horrible place, whereas Lilly was not happy to leave him in that place. She knew that in order to give him freedom, it has to be killing his brain, and that's debatable if that's a compassionate act on her part. But I would like to believe it was.
What was your reaction when you heard how the Governor savagely decapitates Hershel?
There's a double thing there. The Governor killing Hershel, which is horrific, he does it to show the people in prison the nihilistic man he is and his sense of destruction. He knows Hershel is a good man and embodies everything good about the prison and that community, and he kills their most beloved member and that's terrible. All sorts of destruction comes after that. Then there's the other thing in being the man who kills Scott Wilson. Bringing his involvement with the show was very hard, and it was a very emotional day. The way the filming happened, that happened on one day, and everyone came to the set and was there for Scott. It was amazing. Scott went home and three or four days later, it was time for my death, and Scott came back to the set to say goodbye to me. After my death, Scott and I spent the day together and played pool and had a few drinks. It's always very upsetting when someone you love and are friends with goes, and it was very traumatic for all of us.
Why do you think the Governor opted to kill Hershel instead of Michonne, who put down Penny?
There's a sense that he wants them to see just how terrible he can be; he wants to shock them. He was planning on killing Michonne afterward, but he has a sword to this man's neck and he was hoping that [Rick's group] would see he was serious and say, "We'll leave [the prison]," but they still weren't saying that. In the Governor's craziness, just like at the end of season three when he has this blackout, he goes into this traumatic place again and blacks out and lashes out. The person he lashes out to is the person whose neck is right in front of that sword. It's to show them how horrible he can be; it's not as thought out as one would like. The Governor's plan is not very thought out; he's expecting them to see he's serious and to give up the prison, but they still don't. He's not there to negotiate.
How did you feel about having to lie to the press about remaining on The Walking Dead after you were cast in AMC's Line of Sight?
I've got to wait and see about Line of Sight. It was very different, and I'm terribly superstitious about these things; I've got everything crossed that it gets picked up. It's a great piece of writing by Blake Masters and really fertile territory to explore for me. But I'm slightly nervous about talking about it because I want it to happen so much! (Laughs.)
The Walking Dead is famous for having "Death Dinners" after castmembers are killed off. What was yours like? Did you and Scott Wilson share?
Scott and I had a dinner together. We went out with other members of the cast. What happens at those Death Dinners now that people have heard about them, we tend not to have them in restaurants because if three or four of us get together in a restaurant, people say, "They're going to die!" So we have them in one of the houses of someone we know on the show. It was great, everyone came along and it was very emotional. Like in any workplace, when you spend a lot of time with people, it's important to say goodbye and say how much you've enjoyed working with them and wish them luck. It's a good thing to do; it's the respect you have for your co-workers and that's important in any workplace. Sarah Wayne Callies [whose Lori Grimes was killed off in season three] came. She knew Scott Wilson very well, and it was great to see her and hear what she had to say. It's a very close family. Once you've been in The Walking Dead, you're always in The Walking Dead. I keep very close contact with Andrew Lincoln and Norman Reedus and quite a few of the cast, including Scott, as well as crewmembers, makeup and camera crew. We're very close; we go through a lot, and it's one of those jobs that means a lot to you in your life, and I will be part of that team all my life. It's a great privilege to have been part of it.
Will you continue to watch The Walking Dead?
Of course I will! I don't know what happens now! I didn't get a chance to read the other scripts. I'm just bummed I have to wait until February until it comes on again. I have no idea what happens from now on, so I can't wait to watch and see what happens.
Will you miss the Governor? Hit the comments below with your thoughts. The Walking Dead returns Feb. 9 on AMC. Stay tuned to THR's The Live Feed for more Walking Dead midseason finale coverage. In the meantime, check out the Governor's demise, below.
Sundance: On the Scene