Spoiler alert: The following contains spoilers from the season-six finale of The Walking Dead.
Well, you won’t have to wait too long to find out whom Negan bludgeoned to death. “We will pick up directly from what we saw last night,” Jeffrey Dean Morgan said during a conference call with reporters Monday morning. “Season seven is going to pick up right where we left off. So you’re going to see who’s on the end of that bat.” Morgan made his debut as Negan during the final minutes of the sixth season’s finale, and left us with one of the biggest cliffhangers in the history of The Walking Dead, with Rick Grimes and many of the major characters on their knees begging for their lives. One of them, Negan explained, would die — only of course the camera faded to black before we could learn who that person was. Both Morgan and showrunner Scott Gimple talked about the “unbelievably emotional” shoot, fan reaction to the ending, and what we can expect from season seven.
Shooting Negan’s introduction was “unbelievably emotional.”
“I got the script two days before I shot it,” said Morgan. “I only got Negan’s stuff. I didn’t even get the full script.” So shooting that scene between Rick’s group and Negan’s group was their first introduction to Morgan for much of the cast. “That’s a hell of an introduction,” said Morgan. “It was very emotional. A couple of them didn’t make eye contact with me until the end of the second night. A couple of them embraced me immediately after we filmed all night.”
The actual shoot itself lasted two days, from sundown to sunup. “It was unbelievably emotional, even though it was freezing cold, these actors were on their knees pretty much the entire time,” said Gimple. “Everything seemed to get more and more real with the performances, with the situation, with just how hard everything was because it was freezing … It was one of the most incredible professional experiences I’ve had.”
So, about that ending …
“I didn’t know it was going to be a cliffhanger until I watched the show. That was done in my world,” said Morgan. “I don’t know if any of the cast knew how exactly it was going to end, which is what caused a lot of the uncertainty and emotion going on.” Executive producer and director Greg Nicotero told EW that the rest of the cast wasn’t on set for the killing: “We didn’t have anybody there because we didn’t want even somebody on the crew or somebody there to go ‘Oh I get it, I know what’s going to happen.’ So I think they were all gone. We built a little rig for Jeffery to hit so that there would be impact with the baseball bat.” (Also Chandler Riggs tweeted, “If it makes you feel any better I still don’t know who got killed and it’s been like 6 months since I read the script.”)
As for whether or not Morgan threw his weight behind the showrunner, Scott Gimple: “I understand the fan’s frustration. I get that. That being said, I have to trust these writers and showrunners. They know what they’re doing.” Gimple anticipated that there would be some fan blowback, but he’s hoping viewers trust them enough. “I know the greater story that we’re telling and I know why this fits in where it fits in. The hard thing about it is you can’t say why,” said Gimple. “I truly hope that people see [that the seventh-season premiere] justifies how we’ve decided to tell the story.”
The world of The Walking Dead will become ever wider.
While Gimple wouldn’t exactly confirm that the men in body armor we saw were representatives of the Kingdom, he did suggest that the world would continue to expand beyond Alexandria and the Hilltop. “We’re going to have a wide variety of locales, of tone, of character,” said Gimple. “A big part of it is, how do you begin again? The world is not what they thought it was. How do you, basically, start over in this new world?”
Carl’s relationship with Negan will be weird.
In the comics, Carl and Negan have a strange relationship. (No spoilers for those who haven’t read the comics.) “It may be very, very brief, but we will absolutely see them have a pretty intense moment,” said Gimple. “There’s going to be a bit of remixing … But I absolutely want to explore Negan having that strange respect for someone, which I think was the hallmark of that relationship, and tell versions of that story.”