The Walking Dead: Negan’s Bat Has Swung. Are We Ready For What’s Next?

Walking Dead Season 7 Gene Page/AMC

The Walking Dead Season 7 premieres Sunday, Oct. 23 on AMC

Has there ever been a cliffhanger as agonizing as this, Dead heads?

Though it’s been months since The Walking Dead’s harrowing Season 6 finale, odds are good you’ve replayed its final moments over and over in your head, trying to figure out who. Who got Negan’s bat? Well, the wait is almost over and Dead’s executive producer/director/SFX guru Greg Nicotero deeply understands our suffering — because he shares it.

“Our biggest challenge is you knew it was coming ever since Issue 100,” he said during a press conference with cast and EPs at San Diego Comic-Con. “[So] the trickiest aspect of the first episode is living up to the expectation of that moment. Then, what’s even more interesting for me as the director of the episode was how that changes the direction of the survivors forever. That, to me, was as critical as the actual moment — the five minutes after, the 10 minutes after, the 20 minutes after, ‘when the smoke clears on the battlefield’ sort of scenario. It’s agonizing to think about the fact that we’re changing the landscape of our cast.”

RELATED: AMC airs two-hour The Walking Dead: The Journey So Far retrospective on 10/16

But take heart — the Grimes Gang isn’t the only one with a major bone to pick with the notorious bat-wielder, played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Enter the impressive newcomers in Season 7’s mindbender trailer, King Ezekiel (Khary Payton) and his tiger Shiva. Says Dead co-creator Robert Kirkman of The Kingdom’s dreadlocked leader and potential Alexandria ally, “We’re reaching that point where Ezekiel is in the storyline, so it’s just a natural progression. There’ll definitely be other characters that you can see this season and some surprises are coming. … We’ve talked about The Kingdom. We saw Tara and Heath in some weird place. We’re expanding these different locations, but also in the types of characters we see and the kind of lives that they lead.”

Though Negan may be the most reviled TWD baddie yet, Morgan said playing him is a freaky treat.

“There’s not a trace of Jeff in Negan,” he smiles. “I change the way I move, the inflection of my voice — it’s just turned into this weird thing. Scenes happen and we’ll look at each other and just be like, ‘What was that? What just happened there?’ It gets seriously weird with Negan around.”

Key players share their thoughts on the days ahead.

Walking Dead Season 7
Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

Steven Yeun (Glenn): When you do sign on to do a show that is long-running in this day and age, you’re not just signing up to be an actor on a show — you’re signing up for a specific lifestyle to a degree, which is a very interesting thing and new to me. During “Dumpstergate,” or whatever it was called, that was tough, because I pretty much literally holed up in the apartment. But in terms of the extra questions that I, obviously, get due to the comic based on last season, that’s been easy for me — it’s easy to say nothing.

Lauren Cohan (Maggie): As crazy and as strife-ridden as their lives are, she — and all of us — have wisdom. We have a tribe that we belong in and we know who we are and we know who we are to each other. That’s just absolutely invaluable. That’s what I think about in that moment. … There will be suffering and that’s inevitable, but who do you become and what do you learn and how much deeper is your spiritual connection and your connection to those that you love because of how you’ve suffered?

Danai Gurira (Michonne): The penultimate [Season 6] episode, the beginning of it for Michonne is she’s in bed with Rick. Shooting that was really fascinating and it was amazing how Andy played it, because he was so confident. It was a confidence that was teetering to cocky, but it was something right there, where it was a perfect way to step into what we were about to step into. I just remember feeling like, “How can I doubt this?” We didn’t realize the world was going to get that much bigger that fast.

Andrew Lincoln (Rick): Hubris was very much a part of the back eight [episodes of Season 6] for Rick. I think he’s powerless for the first time since he woke up from the coma. He’s truly terrified for his and his child’s life, and his fellow family and everything that he’s fought and bled for, had family members die for. Everything they’ve worked for two years has been shattered in 24 hours. He’s not in a good space, and I think if he makes it through the first episode, he will be a different man. He can’t not be.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Negan): I remember, right before I walked out of the trailer for the first time, this weird calm came over me. Which, oddly enough, I think the character needs. But I remember it was a spot that I don’t know I’ve ever settled into as an actor before. I torture myself. I don’t sleep the night before. Andy does the same thing. We’re very hard on ourselves and nothing is @#$%ing right, ever. But I remember right before I walked out that door, it was OK. I knew what I had to do.

Aw, but did you have to, Negan? Did you?

The Walking Dead Season 7 premieres Sunday, Oct. 23 on AMC. 

About Lori Acken 1195 Articles
Lori just hasn't been the same since "thirtysomething" and "Northern Exposure" went off the air.