The excitement over the arrival of The Waking Dead’s biggest bad from the comic book is at a fever pitch. (Fever pitch. Get it? Baseball movie? Lucille, the baseball bat? Never mind.)
Yes, Negan is coming, and he will be arriving in the season 6 finale. According to Andrew Lincoln and Lauren Cohan, it promises to be a heartbreaking finale indeed. But while fans of the comic and TV show are enthusiastically awaiting Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s portrayal of the charismatic leather-jacket-clad villain, they also can’t help but wonder how far the show will go in keeping the potty-mouthed lunatic in line with his comic book counterpart. Considering almost every other thing coming out of Negan’s mouth is a curse word, it is an issue at the forefront of how this character will be portrayed.
We asked Morgan back in December about the foul language and how close they would be able to keep the TV Negan to the original version while airing on basic cable, and here’s what he told EW:
“Look, it’s a speed bump. I’m not going to say it’s an issue because they’re working on it. We’re going to push AMC — the plan is to push them as far as they can because it’s who Negan is. He uses some colorful language. And I use some colorful language. And reading the comic, it’s important. So we’ll see where that lands. It’s our intention that this character is going to leap off the pages of the comic book. It’s very important that that’s who it is. Some of the characters there’s much more leeway, but Negan is a guy that you want to keep as true as possible, and that would be how I want to play him as well.”
So what exactly does pushing AMC mean? FX just aired the word “motherf—er” on The People v. O.J. Simpson, but that was at the very end of an episode airing an hour later than The Walking Dead. Might AMC be able to get away with the four-letter word if not the 12-letter one?
There’s also the alternate take option. The final line of season 4 had Rick looking dramatically towards the camera after being locked in the Terminus train car and proclaiming, “They’re screwing with the wrong people.” However, when the Blu-ray came out, there was a more comic-specific version included, with the work “f—ing” substituted in for “screwing.”
We asked a trio of top-level Walking Dead producers how they planned to handle the Negan cursing issue and here is what they told us:
Comic creator, exec producer
“I would say that there are certain words that try as I might, we are not allowed to say on AMC, and those are certain words that Negan likes to say. So those words are going to be filmed, and people are going to be able to get those words, but there are definitely some broadcast limitations that we’re going to have to deal with. We’re sorting that out now, but I will say that, worst-case scenario, the extras will be extra-special on Blu-ray. I mean, we’re trying to explore some other more interesting options, but that’s the bare minimum of what we’ll be doing.”
Scott M. Gimple
Showrunner, exec producer
“I’m still finishing up season 6, so there are still aspects of these questions that I’m figuring out. But I will say that my goal is for, at the very least, in some way — might not be all the time, and it might not even be directly through your TV box — that people will be able to get full-octane Negan. I’m still playing around with it, but I will say I do have the material two ways right now. I’ll see what I can do with it. One way or another I want people to see full-octane Negan. Will I be able to shoot every scene like that? Probably not, but to tell you the truth, I think we will get as close to the version of full-octane Negan as we can through some version of the show or another.”
Director, exec producer
[On if he shot Negan’s entrance in the season finale two ways] “That would be a very good guess. We’ve talked about that. Even back when Michael Cudlitz was cast as Abraham we were like, ‘Damn, how are we going to deal with Abraham’s dialogue?’ And I think Gimple went, ‘Yeah, Abraham’s dialogue is fine. It’s Negan that we’re going to have problems with because every other word of Negan’s is f—.’ There is a rhythm to it that even in some of the takes that we did. What I affectionately call the ‘f— takes’ have a completely different rhythm to them and a completely different feel. So while editing it, I was very careful to make sure that I preserved a lot of the performance without getting myself into trouble with the profanity.”
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So there you have it. The Negan entrance in the season finale has indeed been shot two different ways. And if the “f— take” does not make it on AMC, it will be included in the home video release version. Place your bets now on which version actually ends up making it to air.