‘The Walking Dead’: Scott Gimple on When We’ll Get Negan’s Backstory

Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan (Credit: Gene Page/AMC)
Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan (Credit: Gene Page/AMC)

Sunday’s new episode of The Walking Dead — “Sing Me a Song” — promises more info on the inner workings of The Saviors at their Sanctuary homebase, and series showrunner Scott Gimple tells Yahoo TV he has plans to shed more light on the backstory of notorious Saviors leader Negan, too.

“I do believe yes, it’s in the future. You know, I’m always careful about this, [because] things can absolutely change,” Gimple says. “There’s a loose plan in place I have.”

Some of Negan’s backstory has already been revealed to readers of Image Comics’ Image Plus magazine, which in April debuted “Here’s Negan,” a Robert Kirkman-penned monthly four-page spread that follows Negan from the beginning of the zombie outbreak. We won’t share any specific spoilers from “Here’s Negan” — which is scheduled to run for 12 issues — but in the first seven installments, readers learn why he named his deadly barbed wire-covered bat Lucille, and why he developed his foul, but undeniably charming, sense of humor.

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“I take that ‘Here’s Negan’ story as the backstory,” Gimple says. “There’s some aspects of it that will probably be cool [on the show]. It’s some fairly far-flung stuff… in the future, you will see some stuff from that.

“Might need to get Damon Lindelof to do it,” Gimple hints. “It might be rather Lost-ian, but we’re talking a good while away.”

Austin Nichols as Spencer Monroe, Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes, Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan, and Austin Amelio as Dwight (Credit: Gene Page/AMC)
Austin Nichols as Spencer Monroe, Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes, Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan, and Austin Amelio as Dwight (Credit: Gene Page/AMC)

Negan’s portrayer, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, confirmed earlier this week on The Howard Stern Show that the Saviors’ leader will be around in Season 8, and Gimple says there have already been nuances to Negan that suggest there’s more to the blustery big bad persona we’ve seen so far on the series.

In Season 7’s “Service,” during the Saviors’ surprise visit to Alexandria, there’s a moment when Negan is confronting Olivia, yelling at her about keeping track of the guns, because, as he tells her, keeping track of them is “life and death” important. Like most of what Negan says, that sounds threatening, but there’s a tinge of something else to it… a sense that he’s being sincere, not just menacing.

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“Yeah, yeah. I mean, absolutely. I think even from his introduction last year, and you know he said it very directly this year, he basically says, ‘There’s rules. These are my rules. Abide by my rules,’” Gimple says about Negan. “When he says that to Olivia, that’s like, ‘Oh, I can’t have this.’ Which implies that he can have some things, that if people do stay in their lane as far as his rules, it can be cool. In that moment, it’s a little bit of mansplaining maybe, but it’s mostly dictator-splaining. He’s like, ‘Oh, well, this is how it has to be.’ It isn’t hopeless with him. It’s a little hopeless in as much as it’s his way or the highway, and the highway is horrific and traumatic. But he isn’t saying, ‘Oh, there’s no way to move forward.’ He is offering a way to move forward. I think that from the comic, that was one of the most fascinating, and there are a lot of fascinating things about Negan, but that was one of the most fascinating things.”

And, scary as he has been and continues to be to Rick Grimes and the rest of his group, that’s an important distinction about Negan’s rules. He does seem to adhere to the system of rules he’s put forth; if there was no rhyme or reason to what he says, people could go along with his demands, but then be randomly killed anyway, leaving them with no hope and no reason to do his supply-gathering bidding.

Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes and Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan (Credit: Gene Page/AMC)
Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes and Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan (Credit: Gene Page/AMC)

“Yeah, here this is hopeful in as much as you don’t have to die,” Gimple says. “But the most difficult thing is, you have to do exactly what he says, which for people who had sat on their freedom from the oppression of just the situation of the world they’re in, to find a very direct, very stringent, very horrifically enforceable set of rules to have to live under, it’s crushing.

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“But you know, Negan is not the Joker, he’s not an agent of chaos. Negan is a lot like strong men that we’ve seen throughout history. Where we see his, I guess, chaos, or the unpredictability in him, is really the things that come out of his mouth. One of the things that I just loved in the book that Kirkman did is that Negan seems to genuinely like Rick. It kind of frustrates… there’s a weird level of hurt there that Rick doesn’t like him back, and an understanding of why. That’s something I really quite like. I think Jeffery is doing an amazing job with it.”

The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.