- Warning: Spoilers follow for season 11, episode 14 of “The Walking Dead.”
- In a huge departure from the comics, Negan has remarried and is expecting a child.
- Episode writers Jim Barnes and Erik Mountain discuss writing the big reveals with Insider.
Sunday’s episode of “The Walking Dead” made a major departure from the comics.
In the months after Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) left Alexandria, we learn he’s a respected member of the mysterious Riverbend group. More shockingly, Sunday’s episode revealed that he married a member of the group, a woman named Annie (Medina Senghore) and that the two are expecting a child together.
Later in the episode, Negan had an emotional confrontation with Hershel, Maggie and Glenn’s son, where the young boy drew a gun on Negan once he realized he was the man responsible for the death of his father years ago.
In the comics, Negan doesn’t appear in the current Commonwealth story arc. Instead, he disappears for 19 issues only to reappear in the series’ final comic, living in isolation in a farmhouse.
Insider spoke with episode writers Jim Barnes and Erik Mountain, who joined the series on season 10, to break down our questions about Negan’s new relationship, how Maggie learned the news about Negan’s forthcoming child from Annie, and what Negan’s ominous words to Hershel meant at the end of Sunday’sepisode.
Negan sets off on his own to find another group because ‘that’s what everybody needed’
Insider: Comic fans watching the series know that Negan didn’t really exist during the Commonwealth storyline. I have disappeared until the final issue. In 2020, we learned in the “Negan Lives!” comic that he went on a self journey to reclaim Lucile’s body from her and bury her.
The show goes in a totally different direction. Negan’s remarried to a new character, Annie, and they’re expecting a child together. How did this come about? What inspired this direction to take Negan’s character in?
Jim Barnes: I think it was just about looking at what happened before and honoring what happened before and thinking about him coming into the realization that his presence is causing immense stress on everybody around him. Just the fact that he’s there.
In the episode, he says, I left because that’s what everybody needed. Just in striking out, it just felt like it was the noble thing to do — even though he didn’t want to do it — even though he had all these connections with Lydia and Judith. It was a hard decision. It’s one he made coming from thinking about people.
Do you know what Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s reaction was when he read the script and learned that this was happening? Was there a collaborative process at all there with him? Did he have feedback? I ask because I know he had some concerns earlier in the season. When he first saw he would be leaving Maggie for dead in the two-part, premiere he called up [showrunner] Angela [Kang].
Barnes: He was cool with everything, just in his texts. He was fine.
Erik Mountain: I didn’t have any communication with him about it because we weren’t covering set because of COVID. We were back here and Jim had worked with him before, but I had not.
It made more sense for Maggie to learn about Annie’s pregnancy from her instead of Negan because he likely wouldn’t have brought it up at all.
Maggie learns about the pregnancy from Annie as opposed to hearing it from Negan and without him present in the room. Why was it important for Maggie to have that reveal made in this way?
mountains: Just from my perspective, it was probably just in a more pragmatic way, given the situation that they’re in. It wasn’t something that, in my mind, Negan would necessarily bring up in that moment given the emergency and seeing the crisis that they find themselves in.
Deeper than that, I don’t necessarily want to speculate too much, but I think that’s a big piece of information.
Barnes: And that’s not quite the right place to drop it. It’s kind of a massive bomb and he’s probably thinking, “Oh God.” He has that knowledge, but, right now, all he cares about is saving those people [at Riverbend].
‘TWD’ has so many diverse couples because it’s ‘reflective’ of what you see in America.
I feel like this is important to discuss because the topic of interracial marriage was in the news this week and on Sunday’s episode it’s revealed that Negan just happens to be in an interracial marriage. Most of the relationships on the series are interracial. “The Walking Dead” has been one of the most progressive shows when it comes to showcasing a wide range of relationships, whether they be interracial or LGBTQ+, and then allowing them to just exist on the series without judgment.
I wondered if either of you can give me some insight into the responsibility a show like “The Walking Dead” has towards making these decisions to openly showcase couples who are more reflective of the world around us… Why are there so many couples on “TWD” that are either interracial or LGBTQ?
Barnes: I think we think of it as just that’s who’s there. There’s not a lot of people left and it’s just reflective of what you see in America today and what makes America great. So it wasn’t really — I don’t even remember it being brought up as a thing. We weren’t trying to make a statement. It was just, “Oh yeah, Lydia and Elijah are around the same age.” They’ve got similar backstories.
They would maybe be interested in each other. Do you know what I mean? That’s all it came down to. We didn’t even think we have a responsibility to do “X” or “Y.”
mountains: I agree with everything Jim’s saying, and I can’t speak to anything prior to when I was on the show, but with respect to this particular role, [Medina Senghore] was the one that stood out. She’s the one who popped for us as for the role and there was no concern about that or discussion about that. There was nothing like that.
Barnes: She just really stood out. She crushed her audition. It was amazing.
Right. When you look back at the legacy of “The Walking Dead,” I feel like this is one of the things that people are going to remember the show did. You don’t see that kind of diversity on every other series.
Barnes: For sure. And that’s, you know, a credit to our great showrunner.
The Hershel and Negan scene was ‘tricky’ to get right, but one the team knew they wanted to see on screen.
The other big thing that I wanted to ask about is the writing of the Hershel and Negan scene, where he’s holding a gun to Negan. I thought that was so well done. It made me a bit emotional and a big reason for that is because comic readers never received that confrontation between Hershel and Negan and it felt like we were robbed of some of that closure.
Whose idea it was to have that moment between Hershel and Negan and why it was important to show now? Was that a complicated scene to write?
mountains: It might have been Angela who had the idea of pairing them. I can’t recall where the initial idea came from, but it felt right. And it felt like something we all would—there was a strong reaction to it. Yes, we would want to see that: This is Glenn’s son.
It was a tricky scene and obviously had a lot of emotion attached to it and Jim helped me write it. Of course, Angela weighed in on it. I think we just wanted to try to play the scene as authentically as possible as to what Negan would be feeling given where he’s at right now and then of course, Hershel, upon getting that confirmation from him.
Barnes: [Negan’s] trying to do better and that makes you human. I think he’s tried to put them [Alexandria, the Hilltop, etc.] behind him and go out and start a new life and yet it keeps falling back and coming right in his lap. I can’t escape it.
It just felt like the right scene and Angela was really excited about it and handed it off to us.
Negan’s final, ominous invitation to Hershel hints at unfinished business between the two that we may see play out in the future.
Near the episode’s end, Negan tells Hershel the following: “In a few years, when you’ve grown up a bit, come find me and I promise you, we will settle it.” What does he mean in that moment? Is he inviting Hershel to just come and kill him? What should we take away from that line?
Barnes: He knows it’s never — this is [Glenn’s] They are. I have lost his father from him. He’s never gonna see his face from him. He’s never gonna be able to hug him. That isn’t lost on Negan, what he did. He’s able to connect with kids throughout the show. And I think he knows he’s showing empathy in that situation and saying that he knows exactly how he feels. If that’s the path that happens, he understands it. He’s not gonna try to fight it.
mountains: yeah. It was left unresolved there in a way. Hershel does what he does, too, to protect the people that are there, but you get the sense that it is an unfinished business to him and Negan can understand and appreciate that.
Mountain and Barnes reconnected years later on ‘TWD’ to work on the final season. Barnes says it’s been a ‘dream job.’
I know that they’re wrapping the show, they’re filming the final episode right now. Is there anything you want to say about what it has meant to be a part of the show and is there anything you can say about what you’re working on next? Will you stay in “TWD” universe?
mountains: I will say it was a lot of fun to get to work with these writers and to work with Angela, who’s terrific, and to get to work with Jim. We came up together. We were actually in the Warner Bros.’ writer’s workshop together, going back to 2010.
We got to write three episodes [of “TWD”] together and I’m proud of all three of them. It was just a terrific professional and personal experience. As for the next thing, I’m out there kind of evaluating things to see what else is out there. I hope it’s as satisfying professionally as this experience has been because it was pretty great.
Barnes: I got into “Night of the Living Dead” through my dad… and when the [“Walking Dead”] comic came out, I was a fan from day one. I have all the omnibuses. I’ve been a huge, massive fan. I remember going into Angela’s office and meeting with her like four years ago, three years ago, and just being like, floored. I just kept thinking if 10-year-old me could see this, he would lose his mind about it.
To be part of something that is historic television and something that’s been viewing appointment for me, which is hard to do nowadays, I still think it’s a little surreal to me just because it’s a dream job.
Angela is fantastic and just a visionary and is just an amazing boss and to have all of those things line up, usually there’s like some sort of catch. But this was just an unbelievable experience and I’m so grateful that we got to write episodes of “The Walking Dead.” If you look back at it from 10,000 feet, I don’t even know what to say to that. It’s amazing and I’ll never forget it. It’s a massive highlight of my career.
You can follow along with our “TWD” coverage all season long here. This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.