(Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for The Walking Dead: City of the Dead.)AMC series The Walking Dead: Dead City Follow Maggie (Lauren Cohan), when she recruits Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) travels with her to post-apocalyptic Manhattan, an environment very different from anything they’ve experienced before. Dangers abound, walkers and humans alike, and the crumbling city tests them in new, terrifying, and sometimes downright bloody ways that literally push their tolerance for each other to the limit.
In an interview with Collider, Morgan and Cohan talked about their favorite Negan and Maggie moments from this season, how they felt about fans transporting the characters, Negan’s rather dramatic and bloody dramatic moments in the second episode, Does Maggie want Negan to be there? Does Negan have a sense of self about how Maggie sees him.
Collider: The story around these two characters is very fascinating, they would rather stay away from each other, but actually have to rely on each other to survive. With all this energy, what’s your personal favorite Maggie and Negan moment this season?
Jeffrey Dean Morgan: I love their quiet moments, one-on-one moments where they can almost find common ground, but one or both of them just don’t allow that to happen. As a viewer, I found it very interesting to have the opportunity to play the fly on the wall in these scenes. We watched it[at the premiere]with the audience, which was a lot different than watching it alone in my room. Those moments that you didn’t know were going to hit, and they did, and you knew the audience would recognize them. These are some of my favorite moments, they’re so different and yet not so. Something happened that she could never forgive him. They will never be friends. In a way, she needs him and he needs her, but they can’t quite get there. Playing this is tricky. It’s hard to write. But it’s great fun trying to play with it.
Lauren Cohan: Yeah, we’re on the edge of a cliff, and sometimes you can see it, which is cool. For them, you can see that if it wasn’t for this incident, they could actually work as a team and do some really good things and get there in a very efficient way. Fun to say, what are we seeing here? In terms of human limitations, like limitations in the way you are affected by certain things. It’s an event that burrows deep into Maggie’s unconscious, triggered by Hershel’s being taken away. In many ways, she was groping blindly for something to hold on to, something to move on from. At this moment, one foot is in front of the other. She has to find someone capable, who owes her that support, and hit the road, one part of the mission at a time. For her, in many ways, it’s just hoping that she gets through this, rather than letting those deep, crushing psychological issues destroy her, stop her and end it all. Ironically, both the good and the bad are disintegrating. It’s like life.
It’s so fun to watch these characters because no matter how good or efficient their team is, these two are supposed to hate each other, and their dynamic is pretty toxic. How do you feel about the fact that fans actually put these characters together? Does this surprise you?
Morgan: I’m very funny about that. I find it interesting that people ship them because when I watch the show and we play these scenes, what’s really fascinating is that she could kill me at any moment, or he could kill her. I think it’s more fun than anything else. But other people were like, “Oh hey, they should be together.” We both had a really good laugh about the whole thing.
Morgan: I don’t think that’s going to happen any time in the future.
Cohan: No. But it taught me that the world needs love.
Morgan: Lauren and Jeff have an undeniable onscreen chemistry. The reason people see these characters together is because of the chemistry. It’s not chemistry. . .
Cohan: . . . This shows that people are shipping.
Jeffrey, in the second episode, you had a pretty dramatic bloodbath moment where you dragged the guy and spilled his blood all over the place. How did it feel to shoot? With so much blood, wouldn’t it be confusing?
Morgan: Oh, yes. I don’t like slimy, especially when it’s around 150 degrees. But I love bringing that Negan back. Negan has been Negan for a long time. Then, I had to play the next moment where he sees Maggie and knows she’s seen what he’s been hiding from her and himself for years. I thought it was really funny and cool, and the rest of the show was pretty neat. Negan is a survivor. He knows how to survive, he knows how to relate to people and it’s just a perfect example of him putting on that show he’s talking about. This is his survival mechanism. He knows what he’s doing in that world, and he does it well.
Lauren, do you think Maggie wants Negan not to be who she thinks he is, or is it easier for her to keep him in that incorrigible villain box?
Cohan: That’s a good question. To say he is different is to say that many things are possible and that change is possible. Whenever I see someone very nervous, I know it’s because some recognition was too difficult, or just waiting for the bubble to blow. So, in that sense, yes, she did. It took so long, and so many crazy things happened, that if I put it all on a piece of paper and rolled it up like a scroll, I wondered how that would get in the temperature of these characters. It’s a crazy story. It’s such a crazy story. I really thought, what if they could just take inventory and have some quiet moments and let all of these things digest? so, city of the dead Just that peaceful vacation. No, I’m just kidding. In fact, what’s happening in the show is seeing their similarities. I’ve always tried to express that in a concise way, and the reason it’s been difficult is because it really needs to, at least at the beginning of it, in this season, how do you really paint that picture? How would you describe your subconscious being so deeply affected by an event that it uncannily affects the way you have to function and the mechanisms you have to employ to survive. You just can’t help it, don’t trust someone, don’t trust something. The time we’re going to spend together, being forced to do this mission together, you want to intellectually have a point of view, you see things and wonder if it can be trusted. But then, he’d do something that wasn’t trustworthy, and I’d be like, “Look, I know that. I’ve got to stick to that.” I find it hard to talk about it in a succinct way because it’s really poured into our story content.
Morgan: Lauren was just as confused about the relationship as Maggie.
Cohan: I’m not confused. It’s just that the whole picture is too big.
Jeffrey, do you feel the same about Negan? Was he self-aware when he realized how Maggie saw him?
Morgan: Yeah, I think he absolutely does. A perfect example is what we were just talking about when he could see himself through her eyes. I think he finds it humiliating. Negan spends a lot of time trying to be someone else, someone Maggie can live with and not want to kill. However, two years later, when we find them now, Negan is having a hard time. She’s been dealing with a teenage boy who needs a father, and now she needs Negan, the man who took her son’s father. So, when she got to Negan, she was emotional, but she needed his help. It’s a damn dilemma. I don’t think she ever thought she’d see him again, and here we are. And then, by the same token, I think Negan wants to help her, maybe help her, whether or not she doesn’t have something hanging over his head.
Cohan: There’s a reason he needs a father, but I think there’s something that might paralyze him more, which is that I feel, whether I realize it or not, I’m doing my son a disservice by not doing it. Get over this and find a solution and find ways to cope. I do think you can do this yourself. I know you can do it yourself. I know women can do it on their own and so can men.
Cohan: It’s sad. Fundamentally speaking, whether she has that self-awareness or not, there is something here that must be faced. It’s like entering the Dragon’s Mouth, it’s something that’s bound to happen. It has to happen because what’s happening now is unsustainable, as we’ve seen the breakdown of her life and the strained relationship with her son. It’s not there. You have to bottom out, and the poor bottom line is how far you can go. She has this life, but her family has been kidnapped. Then, ironically, the connection to find him was through Negan, so what was that? There must be a reason and you will see what that is.
Morgan: Or not.
The Walking Dead: Dead City Airs Sunday nights on AMC and is available on AMC+.