'Walking Dead's' David Morrissey Previews the Governor's Return: 'He's Deeply Traumatized'

"We don't know anything about the reason why he's outside prison," the actor tells THR. "We can imagine from what we know about him, but I would urge people not to preempt why he's standing there just yet."
Gene Page/AMC
"The Walking Dead's" David Morrissey

It may have only been for a split second, but the Governor (David Morrissey) finally returned last week on AMC's The Walking Dead. As the group seemingly has a handle on the deadly flu plaguing the group, the villain responsible for Andrea's death was revealed to have been spying on the prison.

This week, the zombie drama based on the comics created by Robert Kirkman flashes back to reveal the Governor's whereabouts since the massacre that nearly wiped out his entire group. The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Morrissey to get the scoop on what to expect from the eye-patched baddie's backstory.

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Last season, we never got the battle between Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and the Governor. Was it always the plan to have you return in season four?

The great thing about doing The Walking Dead is you never know anything; they're not afraid of killing off lead actors. My contract was for many years, but you don't know whether you're getting through to the next week at all. It might have been their plan but, if it was, they didn't tell me until the very end. It wasn't until I got the last script for episode 16 of season three that I learned that I didn't die. I had no idea even then that they would bring me back.

How has the Governor changed from the time we last saw him at the end of season three to the guy we see spying on the prison?

What we did see at the end of season three is that violent act where he turns on his own people. It wasn't premeditated; it was something that happened in the moment. There was a redness that fell on this man, and he went into trauma and blackout rage. Even at the end of episode 16, we see him sitting in the truck and there's nothing triumphant about him, nothing celebrating the act of violence. He's deeply traumatized by it. What we'll encounter is however he deals with that. It's important to say that the man outside that prison will always have this sense of danger and foreboding around him. We don't know whether he's standing there to negotiate or whether he's standing there to attack this place or whether he's just sort of standing there to give himself up to fortune for these people. We don't know anything about the reason why he's outside prison. We can imagine from what we know about him, but I would urge people not to preempt why he's standing there just yet.

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How have the psychological effects of his murderous rampage weighed on him?

He's in deep trauma about it. He's gained self-knowledge through that act, and he's learned that he has the capacity for that much indiscriminate violence. Not only can he plot and attack his enemy and plot revenge, but he can turn on people he knows, people whose children he knows. He built this new life in Woodbury, and he has the capacity to indiscriminately kill, and that became a deeply troubling place. He is an intelligent enough man to know that that is a dangerous thing. There is something a bit Jekyll and Hyde about the Governor that he has to come to terms with. He's deeply traumatized by the fact that he has that capability inside himself. It's terrible knowledge to have.

How has the Governor survived outside of Woodbury? Does he have a new respect for the community he once had?

There's a sense that that's what happens to him as he goes into a very emotionally dead place. He starts to internally close down. There's a sense that something is looking after him, that his deep instincts of survival are taking over his intellect. Even though he's in deep trauma and offering himself up to fortune in a way, he's just out in the world seeing what will happen to him in a very dead space. He's still surviving and he's still getting away from it. There's a lot of survivor's guilt going on, too. It's not always a liberating, wonderful emotion; it can sometimes be a crushing emotion of guilt and shame that you survived and others died. There's a sense that he might be in that place as well.

He has Andrea's and Merle's blood on his hands and a vendetta with Rick, Michonne and Daryl, plus he's enemies with Glenn, Maggie and Hershel, by association. Is he worried about facing off with a group that has proven to be a formidable force?

He has to weigh that. There's also an element with the Governor where I feel that he can -- in an ideal situation going forward -- he'd totally reinvent himself. He would get away from his past -- Rick, Hershel and all those guys wouldn't be part of [his reinvented life].

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We have a theory that Bob is working for the Governor and feeding rats to walkers to force the group from the prison. Thoughts?

People in the streets ask me about feeding the walkers, about Carol joining the Governor and all those things. The last thing in the world that they want is for me to say, "Well, I'll tell you what happens." The wonderful thing about The Walking Dead is that it sets so many questions in everybody's mind and makes you want to participate by asking those questions and being involved in the story because the story can have so many twists and turns in its plot.

Are you excited to find out what the Governor has been up to? Hit the comments below with your thoughts and come back to THR's The Live Feed on Sunday night for more from Morrissey in our weekly Walking Dead Dissection postmortem. The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.

E-mail: Lesley.Goldberg@THR.com
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