The cast and crew of The Walking Dead have come to Atlanta this Halloween weekend for Walker Stalker Con, and they’re taking the stage to talk.

For most, Halloween weekend is a time of spooks and frights. But it was frights of a different sort that descended on Atlanta this year. The annual Walker Stalker convention took place this year during the Halloween weekend. Atlanta is, of course, where The Walking Dead is filmed. For that reason, it’s no surprise that nearly the entire cast appeared at the convention.

On Saturday morning, Negan actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan took the stage. He was joined by executive producer and director Greg Nicotero. ComicBook.com had a full recap of their panel. Here are the highlights.

It’s Just a Character

Morgan was happy to be at the con, regardless of the fan reaction toward Negan. “Most of it has been really awesome,” Morgan said. “No one stabbed me.” 

negan-the-walking-deadImage Credit: AMC

With such a convincing performance, it’s hard to forget that Morgan isn’t really Negan. To that point, Morgan answered whether he preferred to be addressed as Morgan or Negan. “I think there might be benefits for both,” Morgan said. “If you wanted me to answer as Negan you would get a full-on different response.”

Nicotero talked about bringing Morgan onto the show. “One of the amazing things about casting an actor of his experience and [calibur] is they come prepared,” Nicotero said. “I think the hardest thing is that every scene that Negan’s in, nobody else talks.”

“Negan’s a performer. He’s on stage all the time,” Nicotero said.

“Jeffrey was by and far, to me, the best choice for the role,” Nicotero said. “You see it really, really great at the end of the first episode.”

“He is, in my opinion, the best villain since Merle.” The best villain since Merle? I’d say he’s the best villain, period.

It All Starts With the Comic Book

Morgan talked about using the comic books as a guide. “Robert Kirkman created this character that we read in the graphic novel,” Morgan said. “We use the graphic novel certainly as a road map and a lot of the dialogue is going to remain as close to what Kirkman wrote as possible.”

“There’s a lot of stuff we’re doing that’s not in the comic book,” Morgan admits. “You’ve gotta be careful of, what I’ve found, is Negan…this world that’s been created…it’s so gritty and it’s so real. I can’t come skippin’ in as the guy with the baseball bat and the scarf like a cartoon character.”

Setting the Tone

The mood on the set during the season premiere was obviously pretty tense. However, a couple of unlikely cast members found a way to lighten the mood. “Steven [Yeun] and Michael [Cudlitz], out of everybody for those two episodes…took it better than everyone else. They had more fun,” Morgan said. “They were having a good time. Steven, with his eyeball hanging out, was putting on a comedy routine. The rest of the cast was huddled in the corner in tears.”

“I was having fun but I had to go take my fun in the back of the RV between takes,” Morgan said. “I’m only half kidding.”

Apparently, Michael Cudlitz was convinced that Morgan knew his character was going to die. He thought Morgan was looking at him funny. But Morgan says he looked at everybody that way. “The dick is here to f—ing stay,” Morgan said. “That was Negan!”

A Change in the Wind

Nicotero further elaborated on the contrast coming up on episode two. “The episode that airs tomorrow night is very, very different from episode one,” Nicotero said.

“Two of the characters that we love…Carol and Morgan…We’re in the Kingdom, Nicotero said. “It was interesting because Scott [Gimple] literally said to me, ‘I know that I emotionally destroyed you directing the premiere. Episode 2 is completely different.’”

Nicotero is also excited for fans to meet King Ezekiel, played by Khary Payton. “The first time I met Khary, we went to dinner,” Nicotero said. “He literally exploded with enthusiasm.”

The Walking Dead Season 7 is currently airing on Sunday nights at 9/8c on AMC.