The moment that hordes of The Walking Dead Season 4 fans have been waiting for — even if they had forgotten now that we’re already several episodes in — finally arrived last night with a last-second shot of The Governor (David Morrissey) quietly, menacingly, observing the chaos at the prison. He didn’t say a word, and we couldn’t really see his expression, but you have to know that if he could have been aware of all the sickness and carnage going on inside those walls, it would have only warmed his black heart.
It’s a testament to how effective Morrissey’s performance is that he is able to provoke such menace and feelings of hatred, because in person he couldn’t be more polite and approachable. Speaking to reporters at Comic-Con in San Diego last summer, he offered a few tidbits about his character’s role in this season’s carnage— er, drama, as well as a heartfelt plea to not necessarily write The Governor off as a irredeemable villain.
“What the writers have done for The Governor this season is just wonderful,” he says. “As an actor, you want to have complexity, you don’t want to be saying what you’re feeling, and they’ve really written that for me. It’s been a joy to play.”
OK, so that bit could be just the usual rah rah stuff you hear in interviews. But Morrissey did spill some details as to where The Governor’s head is after the events of last season, which included the fall of his beloved Woodbury, and his own role in the deaths of Merle (Michael Rooker) and Andrea (Laurie Holden).
“There’s an element of what he does at the end of Season 3 that he wears very heavily. He doesn’t carry it lightly. You can’t wash that off. It has to have a real turning point in him,” he says. “I feel that he was a man who recognizes that a switch went off in his head, and even though he’s done terrible things in Season 3, that particular thing [the death of Andrea] ramped him up to somewhere else. He was out of control, and I think that’s a very worrying thing for him is that switch that takes him to this dark place.”
As for judging The Governor as an evil person, Morrissey quickly gets animated.
“Who is a hero?” he asks. “One man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist, so the choice of who is a hero and what is heroic is completely arbitrary and completely personal. The victors write history, so you look at things in the past and you think, ‘That’s a terrible thing.’ You weren’t there. You didn’t see, you don’t know the choices that led to that point. So it’s very easy to put people into categories of good and evil and heroic, [but] people do things for very complex reasons and sometimes they’re reasons that are only personal to them which are heroic. But to the populace they might look cowardly, but you never know that, so it’s very important not judge people in that way. Certainly that’s the first lesson of an actor, you don’t judge your character. Could he have been heroic? There are things that he’s done already which I think are truly heroic. He built that town. That’s a heroic achievement, to have a place in this world where your kids can run out the door and play in the street without you going crazy. That is massively heroic. But tough choices mean tough people have to step up, and that’s his journey.”
Point taken, David. But still, the TV wall made of heads? And needless to say Michonne (Danai Gurira) has no empathy for the man, whom she continues to hunt, and we presume will not stop hunting until one of them is dead or moves into a spinoff. Morrissey does have a deal with AMC to star in a pilot called Line of Sight, but I’m choosing as of now not to read a whole lot into that. (Although we all know what it means.)
It would be nice for the venerable British actor to get to stick around, seeing as last year he was the new kid on the block, and now he’s a seasoned Walking Dead veteran.
“Last year was interesting for me because I was really, really nervous joining, because I came to the show as a fan,” he says. “I loved the show, and I knew Andrew [Lincoln] and stuff, and I remember sitting in my hotel room before I got to set on my first day more nervous than I’ve ever been in my life because it meant so much to me. But the second I got on the set, I met everybody and those nerves just went away. You’re part of the team. This season there are new characters so it’s fallen to me sometimes to be that welcoming person. It is a big family there, because we go through a lot. We’re not in L.A., we’re all away from home so we have to bond with each other. We work stupid hours, we do crazy stuff, the story demands emotionally a lot of us. We all recognize that we’re only as good as each other, and we look after each other.”
The Waking Dead airs at 9pm Sundays on AMC.
Photo: Credit: Frank Ockenfels/AMC