10:45am PT by Lesley Goldberg
Here's What to Expect From Negan on 'The Walking Dead'
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from The Walking Dead comic book series and gruesome video from the same.]
Negan's (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) arrival is imminent as The Walking Dead heads into the remaining two episodes of its sixth season.
Fans of both the AMC drama and Robert Kirkman's comic book series are on edge. Rumors are swirling about Steven Yeun's future with the zombie drama after the series has put Glenn's back up against the wall far too many times to count. Insiders also tell THR that Yeun signed a one-year deal that covers only season six.
While the drama also may have offered a massive Easter egg about the way in which Glenn dies in the comics back in the season five premiere, showrunner Scott M. Gimple tends to take a "remix" approach to the source material and it's unclear if he'll take a scene-for-scene take on Negan's deadly entrance.
"I feel a great deal of pressure but it's pressure from myself because I remember reading it," Gimple tells THR of the 100th issue of the comics. "It's some of Robert's best writing ever and I would not be too proud of myself if I chumped it."
The landmark issue saw Negan's group surprise Rick, Michonne, Carl, Glenn, Maggie, Sophia and Heath on their way to the Hilltop as the Saviors planned their attack on Alexandria. It serves as the first encounter between Rick and Negan after multiple run-ins between the two communities — including Eugene's privates-biting moment with Dwight.
Negan, looking to make an impression, whips out his barbed-wire covered baseball bat Lucille and lines up the survivors. "Eeny, meeny, miny, moe," he says as he points Lucille one by one at everyone on their knees. He ultimately lands on Glenn and — as has been suggested on the AMC drama — beats him to death with Lucille.
"The big thing that's going to happen —whenever it happens, it might be next season — when we have that lineup, if we have that lineup, Negan will beat himself to death," Gimple says with a laugh. "There is a responsibility whenever we make changes to the story, it's always in service to tell the spirit of the story as true as we can and sometimes that requires total changes, sometimes some changes and sometimes playing things to the letter. It's a whole jumble in our heads and we go through a lot of thinking about it. I've been thinking about it since season two. Whenever it happens, if it happens, I know people won't like it, but hopefully for the right reasons."
One thing to watch for will be Negan's colorful vocabulary of f-bombs, which are not suitable for basic cable programming. The Walking Dead previously filmed an expletive-riddled scene in season four that was softened for broadcast ("You're screwing with the wrong people") but the full version was released on the Blu-ray ("You're f—ing with the wrong people," in a famous line from the comics). Expect Negan's dialogue to be handled in a similar fashion.
"We recognize there are restrictions as for what we can do on AMC and broadcast lines, but AMC is a very creative network and likes to take risks and try new things," Kirkman told THR. "Broadcast isn't the only outlet for this show. There's a lot of opportunities with Negan that we're going to be trying to take full advantage of."
Added Gimple: "There's no way he could drop that amount of f-bombs that he does in the comic on TV. There's simply no way. In some way, it can't be full on, but as long as we have the full-on version, they will come out and people will be able to watch them. That to me was the most important thing, that the full-on Negan exists and it's available. What version gets on TV, that's down to experimentation. Jeffrey's performance is so amazing that I hope people aren't hanging on the fact that we aren't saying the f-word in that moment. Especially if they can watch it later. It comes down to either having it and censoring it out in some way or another or not having it. The one thing nobody wants to do is for it not being there to diminish the experience. So stay tuned. We might just on the internet have a supplementary audio program you can go to."
As for what Rick and Negan's first appearance looks like, star Andrew Lincoln summed it up with one word: "Testy."
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC. Stay tuned to THR.com/WalkingDead for more coverage. In the meantime, a foreign trailer for the season six finale has leaked and offers a first glance at Morgan as Negan — who arrives with Lucille. Watch that below.