David Morrissey on The Governor vs Negan, The Walking Dead and playing polarising characters (EXCLUSIVE)

We had the opportunity to meet and chat with actor David Morrissey, the first part of our interview discussing his new series The Missing. However most Australian and American audiences would be more familiar with Morrissey as The Governor in The Walking Dead or going back even earlier in the musical comedy Blackpool. We couldn’t resist asking him a few questions about his earlier work that has now brought him to where he’s at.

“As an actor I like playing different roles and the Governor was very different from me and asked different things of me. I was able to sort of both emotionally but technically as well, accents and stuff like that. That’s what you do as an actor, you’re getting involved in those things. The popularity of the show obviously helped me, it’s brought me to a different audience, a world audience. It’s certainly made my life easier as far as recognition is concerned and success is always great in that way, it’s helpful. It’s changed my life a lot really in the fact that I have a world audience.”

Back in 2012, in Season 3 of The Walking Dead, we were introduced to a character known only as The Governor. In amongst the chaos of the world overrun by walkers, a small town called Woodbury became a sanctuary. A place safe from the zombies courtesy of its high walls and vigilant security detail, all kept under the watchful eyes of The Governor. The appeal of this particular character lay in his dominant, confident and often charming nature. For us as viewers he could be very polarising, you loved to hate him but hated to love him.

“I think the complexity of him as a character I was very happy with. I think the way that, even in the two seasons, I really felt that there was a man there who, if you’re keeping your daughter who has been infected, if you’re keeping her in a cage and trying to have some sort of normal life with her, there’s a lot of love there. I always felt that he was quite a loving man before the zombie apocalypse had happened.”

Despite The Governor’s initial charisma, charm and seemingly well meaning exterior, under the surface lay a man with a brooding rage and fire. All of this comes to the forefront once his daughter is killed and he then becomes a loose cannon.

“Once Michonne kills his daughter and he loses his eye, all bets are off then. He becomes a different character, he becomes a much more nihilistic person. Then what the show does is it takes him to that edge of where he’s just completely mad. Kills his town practically, just lets loose on his populous.”

“But they (the writers) bring him back in the fourth season as this man who’s slightly just walking around on the road, he’s lost everything. Then he discovers this new family and he starts to sort discover his humanity again. It’s a dangerous place to love, their world of The Walking Dead. He doesn’t want to love, he just wants to die really. Then when he discovers this new family and starts to really care about them and love them, he knows he’s in danger and that’s what sends him over the edge again. He sort of gets to that point where he just thinks, “You can’t do this, you can’t love anybody.”

For those that are currently watching the show, one of the new big baddies to enter onto the scene is Negan, played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Negan is the leader of a group of survivors called The Saviors, they manipulate other survivor colonies by fear and intimidation. Negan’s entrance onto the show was brutally violent and he is by far the most vicious, cruel and calculating of the antagonists Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his group have come up against. But how would The Governor fair if he was to go up against Negan?

“Oh, that’s not even a question. It’s a ridiculous question. There is no competition between the two of them. The Governor is very dangerous and also I think he’s a smart man, he’s a very intelligent man. He’s a villain of a much more sophisticated, calculating nature. I think, I’d love to see the writers bring us back together. Bring me and Negan back together and then we’d have a smackdown or a field day killing a lot of people. Or maybe it’s just a bromance, that we sort of go off on our motorbikes into the desert sun. I don’t know, that’s up to Scott Gimple.”

Stepping further back into David’s filmography you’ll discover his stint in the unique British musical black comedy Blackpool. The show’s lead character Ripley Holden played by Morrissey is yet another character audiences hated to love. The show also featured a young David Tennant and was a cult hit that brought many outside of the United Kingdom attention to Morrissey’s work. Morrissey has a deep fondness for the ridiculous character of Ripley Holden, and would be keen to reprise the role.

“Yeah. Yeah, I’d love to. I mean, I love Blackpool. It was a very weird sort of wonderful show. I really loved it. I mean, I don’t get to do a lot of comedy, although the mad thing about Ripley Holden was he’s probably one of the most horrible characters I’ve ever played. He is so awful, you know, he’s racist, he’s sexist, he’s misogynistic, he’s self obsessed, cheats, lies, but bursts into song every now and again. That’s his saving grace. I loved doing it, it was so wonderful. It gave me a chance to exercise a part of myself that I’ve never done before which was that song and dance man. I loved the routines in it, I loved the songs in it and we had real fun making it. I think he’s a great character. I think he’s a character that I have a lot of love for.”

Jumping forward to the present, Morrissey gives us a hint of the next project to come now that The Missing Series 2 is completed. Britannia is a British period drama set in 43AD where the Roman Imperial Army return to the Celtic stronghold of Britannia to crush the rebellion.

“The show I’ve just done is Britannia which is, it’s an adult show, it’s a grown up show. It has serious aspects to it but I had fun doing it, there’s some great sort of heightened moments in there. That’s a period drama, a historical drama, set in Britain in the second invasion by the Romans. Yeah, I play a Roman soldier so that’s good, yeah.”

In the meantime, you can watch David Morrissey in Series 2 of The Missing on BBC First Australia on Foxtel.