Exclusive: David Morrissey Talks The Governor
Continuing our Walking Dead coverage is an interview with the very talented David Morrissey about Season 3 and how he went about bringing the Governor to life. The Governor is one of those characters fans have been clamoring for, but is also one that would be tricky to bring to life. I feel safe in saying that Morrissey has done that and takes the job very seriously. In this interview he talks about season 3, creating the character, and the challenges that encompasses. It was hard to resist asking him about his role in the 2008 Doctor Who Christmas Special, The Next Doctor. Read on!
The Walking Dead is a widely successful show and The Governor is a very big role, but what sold it for you? What made you go ‘I’m packing up and going to Georgia’?
I came to the show as a huge fan. I had seen the pilot when it aired in the U.K. I had known Andrew Lincoln for a long time. Also there was an actor in the pilot called Lenny James who played Morgan, who I knew as well. They were great friends of mine. So I came to it as a fan, I had loved the show so much and I was here in L.A. just visiting a friend of mine. My manager said the casting people of the walking dead would like to meet. Being a huge fan I sort of ran to them and at first…I don’t know the comic books. I had never read the comic books. They were talking a pretty substantial character and they didn’t mention who it was. You know, I really loved the show so the next thing I met Glen Mazzara who is the showrunner and we got on very well and slowly outlined the character. The plans for the character were just fantastic and felt really up my street so, yeah, and it was just a time of life thing for me. It felt like the right time. And Georgia is wonderful.
You’ve said that you were a fan of the show and know Andrew Lincoln. Did that help with your decision and how you would play the role? That has to be hard to show up and do all the nasty things the Governor has to do, using the comics as indication.
Yeah, I spoke to Andrew and he was very enthusiastic, not just about the show and its production values and everything like that. About Atlanta and what a great place it was to live and how easy it was to be there and exist there. I found that to be very true. It was essential having them there in the cast and he’s been a real touchstone for me. Any job you do it’s full on and it’s tiring so you need somewhere where you can relax and feel secure and enjoy yourself in your downtown. Atlanta is very much that for me. I think it’s a great city and I’ve really enjoyed being here.
What I read was this brilliant book by Robert Kirkman called The Rise of the Governor which is not a graphic novel, it’s a novel. That was my starting point with the character really. I read that and that’s where I came from with him. And also I think what happens in the comic books is we meet the governor quiet far into his psychological journey really. We meet him and he’s pretty fully formed when we meet him. Whereas in the TV show we meet him much earlier, I think, in his genesis, we meet him earlier in his story. I think that helps. You see this man that is trying to create a very secure place for his people to live in and that creates major problems in this world. He is a man who security is everything and he will defend this town and that’s what he needs to do. I think it’s not a great leap of the imagination to understand what that is like to be able to live in a secure place.
Does that complexity kind of help you, because he is going to be a character people are going to love to hate?
Yes it does. I think people will have, I hope people will have, very complex reactions to him. He does things sometimes for very, very good reasons and other times he does things just because he wants to. I think we all know people like that, possibly work for them. I think his complexity will give him that fascination to people.
Yeah, that was berth of it really. I sort of arrived at comic con and sort of been told by members of the cast, but it wasn’t until I got there and walked up to the floor of the convention center that I realized what a huge deal this was. We were in the main hall there and it was like 9,000 people screaming. It was like being in a rock band really. I loved every minute of it, it was fantastic. I think the fanbase the show has is really wonderful. Here in L.A. like yesterday I was walking around and people were so complimentary about the show and looking forward to seeing the governor so it’s been a real ride really.
Do you see Rick and The Governor as good foils for each other? There seems to be an almost man in the mirror type of connection and lead up from the end of season 2.
Yeah, I think the main thrust of season 3 is I live in my village which is Woodbury, which is very idyllic, and Rick’s group lives in the prison and I have difficulties with them. The season is about these two communities and how they can live together and sort of help each other really and not see each other as a threat and whether that is workable. I think that is the main thrust of the season.
From photos and bits of scenes in the trailer, we see that your Governor is at least visibly different from his comic counterpart and obviously there will be some differences from comics to screen, but what would you say to fans who might be concerned they might get a different governor from the one they love to hate?
I think they do, they will get a different governor from the one they know if they only know the comics. I think that’s true of all the characters. I think Rick isn’t exactly like the comic book character. I think Andrew has made that his own shade. The actor needs to make those character their own and that’s certainly what I’ve done with the governor. I would say wait and see with the governor as well. I think he is a character that the audience has a relationship with the character that nobody else has, his private moments and where you see the real person. That is really interesting for the audience that they share something with the governor that no other character inside the story does. I’m hoping that will be the great insight into the character.
I’m going to be talking to Michael Rooker later today, and I’m going to ask him the same question- The Governor and Merle are both pretty intimidating guys and seem to be a force this season. Which one of you two is the baddest, who should we be more afraid of?
It depends on your own fears I think. It’s all about your own, whatever gets you going really. I think Merle is someone who is all muscle. He is somebody who will club you over the head with a big bat. The governor I think will keep you alive longer. It’s about your own fear really, what you would rather have. I think the idea of how you would like to die is something you should think about when you look at those two guys. Which one would be quicker?
The Governor is a violent character. Have they handed you a script were you thought “how are we going to do this and get away with it?” Whether it be killing zombies are torturing the other group of survivors?
Yes they have. Every time I read I script I think how are we going to get away with that. We seem to be getting away with it. I think there is a sense of it is a violent world, it is a world where the rules of our normal rules and morality don’t exist anymore. However, I would say that you don’t have to look too far into the world to see other places where that type of chaos is existing. It’s a pretty brutal place they inhabit. They sort of have to battle within themselves whether they become brutalized themselves. That’s a big battle that they have.
Final question and it’s not a Walking Dead one. When we told our readers we would be talking to you, one of the things that kept popping up out of all the things you have done was about Doctor Who. You were in a fantastic episode a few Christmas’ ago with David Tennnat. Would you ever go back?
I think Russell T. Davies is a bit of a genius and I really love him. He is a great, great man. When he recreated Doctor Who and brought it back, what he did with that show was quiet amazing. It was a pleasure to be in it and if they ever wanted me back I’d love to go back. It’s a brilliant show.
After talking with Mr. Morrissey and seeing all the other interviews he has done for season3, I feel like the character is in extremely capable hands. What do you think of David Morrissey’s take on the Governor? Do you think he’ll be just as nasty as his comic book counterpart?