A SCORCHED, zombie-ravaged dystopia ain’t no place to raise your kids, but desperate times require desperate measures. So when the long-running AMC series The Walking Dead returned to shoot under serious COVID protocols a few months back in Senoia, GA, actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who plays Negan, a brutal, leather-clad anti-hero, brought the entire clan to live on set: “I had my whole family living in Alexandria, this apocalyptic, walled-off town charred and burned down from the season before. It was crazy.”
Morgan’s Air-b-and-zomb, as it were, happened to be the Rick Grimes house, the site of several on-screen brawls from prior seasons. Shotgun spray still pockmarked the walls where his 10-year-old son Gus slept; downstairs at breakfast, they’d pore over the damage wrought by Lucille, Negan’s weapon of choice, a barbed wire-wrapped baseball bat. It was a strange place from which to administer the online school, but, well, what’s normal these days?
“They fucking loved it!” says Morgan. “And having this 30-foot wall around the town was great, too, because I could let the kids and the dogs out. I knew they couldn’t go anywhere.”
This morning, Morgan is a few miles from that set, calling from his Ford F-150 Raptor—a pickup suitable for a zombie apocalypse—after driving it to get his daily COVID test. Shooting is underway for TWD’s 11th and final season, a monster 24-episode run that will conclude in 2022. “Let’s face it—this year has been hard for everybody,” says Morgan. “But getting back to some kind of regular work schedule has been a big relief.”
Though Morgan has starred in bluechip TV series Grey’s Anatomy and The Good Wife and played roles in films like Watchmen, Rampage, and The Losers, his portrayal of the nihilistic Negan stands as the actor’s defining role thus far— jump-started by a cruel, skull-smashing debut (with Lucille) that shocked and polarized TWD fans far and wide when it aired in 2016.
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