Wanted: Charismatic, badass actor to play role of mega-villain/Rick Grimes adversary Negan on The Walking Dead.
The leader of The Saviors may not show up in Season 5 — it would be surprising if he did, since we’re only up to around Issue 64 of the comics, and he doesn’t arrive until Issue 100 — but Negan will be on the AMC show eventually. So who should play him? There are some good options out there in terms of matching the comic book character’s looks and attitude. But does that really matter? Do we need a perfect physical match, or would you be OK with a different direction for the TV show, ala what they did with David Morrissey and The Governor?
Here are some of the more widely spread acting picks for Negan:
Henry Rollins — Back in 2012, TWD comic book artist Charlie Adlard said Negan was based on Henry Rollins. So if we want to go for the most obvious option, it would be Henry. The now 53-year-old former frontman for the punk band Black Flag has all the needed qualities and we can picture him in the role. But Negan is meant to be in his late 30s/early 40s in the books, so would Henry be too old for the role on TV? Not an issue?
Jon Hamm — Negan isn’t bad-looking on the page, but he definitely has a menacing edge. Jon, 43, can play that kind of guy who’s ruthless and cruel but still draws people in with his charm. And he has a history with AMC, with his show Mad Men ending pretty soon. MTV asked comic book writer/TV producer Robert Kirkman if they could get Jon Hamm for Negan. “He's not tall enough! That's a joke. I think Jon Hamm would be perfect. I think after Mad Men has run, Jon Hamm is going to have a Tom Hanks level film career, so I don't think he'll be coming back to television anytime soon. Although that would be cool!” So Jon would be “perfect” but they’re not banking on him.
Bruce Campbell — If we’re going to list awesome guys with black hair who can play badass fighters, you have to add Ash to the list. The Evil Dead and Burn Notice alum doesn’t have the scary edge of, say, Henry Rollins, but he would be an intriguing Negan. Imagine Bruce Campbell holding Lucile and … doing what Negan does to one of our favorite characters. It would truly be shocking in a way that maybe wouldn’t have as much impact from a more expected “villain” type like Henry. But he’s 55 now. Too old for Negan or, again, not an issue?
Fans have been listing plenty of other choices, and on this Walking Dead forum alone we've seen everyone from Javier Bardem, James Purefoy, Josh Holloway, and Eric Bana to Kevin Durand, Patrick Warburton, Vinnie Jones, Joe Manganiello, Liev Schreiber, The Rock and even Steven Seagal.
It seems like fans want a tall, strong, muscled guy who matches the character, but there's disagreement on what's most important. Is the right look the most important? If so, get a jacked-up action star and hope they can pull off the role. Or is a believable actor the most important thing? If so, they can work some Hollywood magic on making the star look as much like the character in the books as they want. Or they could go in a totally different direction — cast, say, Idris Elba, who has the acting skills and intimidating presence, even if he's not a direct match for Negan's look. He’s British and he’s from The Wire, which TWD tends to love … so it’s possible.
It's also possible, maybe even likely, that The Powers that Be will end up casting a lesser-known actor in the role. Negan would be a great showcase for an “unknown,” or someone more famous overseas, etc.
But it's still fun to speculate, so share your picks for who should play Negan. Any of the options above, or someone else?
The Walking Dead Season 5 premieres in October on AMC.