The Surprising Actor Who Almost Played Negan In The Walking Dead
The key component that separates AMC’s “The Walking Dead” from most other post-apocalyptic TV dramas is its inclusion of zombies. As the last vestiges of the human race struggle to find shelter and resources, hordes of mindless corpses with a hunger for flesh roam the Earth alongside them. While this may seem scary, one could argue that the evil humans that have taken advantage of the situation are even more terrifying. Folks like the Governor (David Morrissey) and Alpha (Samantha Morton) were intimidating in their own right, though none could measure up to the former leader of the Saviors, Negan.
Portrayed by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Negan burst onto the “TWD” scene in Season 6’s finale, “Last Day On Earth,” and wasted little time letting viewers know that he meant business. Upon capturing Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his group, the sadistic, baseball bat-wielding Negan killed Abraham Ford (Michael Cudlitz) and Glenn Rhee (Steven Yeun) in brutal fashion to open Season 7 — smiling all the while. In the years since his introduction, Negan has changed significantly and is on his way to becoming something of a hero, with Morgan still putting out unforgettable performances every time he’s on screen.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan has more than made the Negan role his own, but did you know that another surprising actor nearly landed the gig?
Matthew Lillard almost took on the Negan role
In the “Walking Dead” comic line by Robert Kirkman, Negan is one of Rick’s biggest adversaries and one of the most recognizable names to come from the property. Therefore, when the time came to finally bring him to the small screen, it was of the utmost importance that the perfect person took on the character. In hindsight, Jeffrey Dean Morgan was a pretty spot-on choice, but had he not signed the dotted line to join the “TWD” family, the part could’ve gone to Matthew Lillard of “Scream” and “Scooby-Doo” fame.
This bit of shocking news came from Lillard himself at the 2019 Walker Stalker Con (via Horror Geek Life), where he explained the process of his near-casting. “I went in to audition, and they loved it. They were like ‘Wow, they really loved it, you’re in the running for this part,'” he revealed, recalling that this paved the way for a second audition where he once again impressed. However, there was another person in mind — presumably Morgan — for the Negan job, and if he took it, Lillard was out. “It comes down to me and this guy, and I get the call that I don’t get the part.”
Both Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Matthew Lillard are both skilled actors with the filmographies to prove it. Morgan has made for an excellent Negan, and it stands to reason that Lillard would have as well. Sadly though, it just wasn’t in the cards.