Somewhere between The Rock signing with his gorilla friend George and Chicago being pummeled by a gigantic wolf and alligator, Jeffrey Dean Morgan arrives in Rampage in a black government suit. Despite the reading glasses the lack of leather jacket and baseball bat, Morgan clearly channeled Negan for the role.
In the video game inspired flick Rampage, Jeffrey Dean Morgan co-stars as Agent Harvey Russell. Morgan was thrilled to take the role because of his love for monster movies as a kid. “I grew up watching Godzilla and King Kong, so one of the reasons I became an actor was so I could do a monster movie,” he said.
“I hadn’t gotten to do a monster movie yet, and then, you throw Dwayne [‘The Rock’ Johnson] into the mix and I know his track record, he’s got a little bit of a Midas touch going, so it seemed like a no-brainer,” joked the actor. Either way, fans are looking forward to seeing Negan on the big screen.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan Lands Monster Role
In all actuality, the character Harvey Russell is somewhat of a mixture of Rick Grimes and Negan. He’s got this cowboy swagger and Sheriff-like mentality but Morgan swings his hips and smirks like Negan (or Keith Richards). Either way, he’s in charge of tracking down a genetically mutated albino gorilla, crocodile, and wolf.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan has always wanted to be in this kind of movie but it almost didn’t happen because of his hectic television schedule. For eight months of the year, Morgan films The Walking Dead. Since the series shot at the same time in Georgia, the actor was able to land both roles.
Morgan knew he was tired doing two shows at once, but it wasn’t until later that he realized his Negan mannerisms made their way into the film. “When I was watching the movie the other night, I saw a couple body movements that look kind of familiar, a little lean here and there,” joked the actor.
“I was like, ‘Oh man, there could have been a little slop over there between Negan and Russell,’” he added.
Is Russell a Good Guy or a Bad Guy?
Potential spoilers for Rampage movie are ahead…
The trailer for Rampage makes Negan/Russell look like the bad guy but he’s actually the shapeshifter of the film. He starts off skeptical of Davis’ mission but he’s clearly more concerned with trying to save the city. In fact, the real bad guy is actually Claire Wyden (Malin Akerman).
Either way, Morgan would like for his next role to be less of a bad guy. “I think now as soon as I walk onto the screen, people are like, ‘Uh, oh, he’s going to be the baddie,’” said Morgan. “I don’t know that I would want to be a villain right now in anything other than what I’m doing.”
He also said, “I worry that with The Walking Dead, people will only know me as Negan because it’s such a pop culture phenomenon of a show and character. People have forgotten about all my other work as soon as I became Negan and they seem genuinely surprised that I don’t carry Lucille around and torture people in real life. So yeah, let me do something different.”
For both roles, however, Morgan gets to “embrace the ridiculousness of it all.”
Leading Man Against Zombies and Werewolves
As we know from the Keith Harris (Dr. Carson) interview, the writers behind The Walking Dead hold the script until the day before a shoot. But Jeffrey Dean Morgan got the chance to sink his teeth into Rampage a little longer. Plus, director Brad Peyton (San Andreas, Frontier) encouraged him to add dialogue or tweak lines.
In order to “embrace the ridiculous” of zombies and giant wolves, Morgan had to look for the heart of the characters. “It’s absurd,” he said about a 50-foot flying wolf. “If you can embrace it, that’s what makes the movie work. I absolutely embrace all that — it’s f**king killer.”
Morgan also knows that both his show and the film are lying on another man’s shoulders (Andrew Lincoln and The Rock). But, that lack of pressure helps him dive into the performance without overthinking it. “For me to be able to come in with zero pressure and just have some fun and kind of chew up a little scenery, that’s a great time for me.”
“It really is a dream gig, just come in and have fun. That’s what moviemaking should be,” said Morgan. “I don’t know, I think this might be my deal. And, I like doing monster movies. I don’t need to win an Oscar. I like having fun.” In addition to the fun, this is also the first movie his 8-year-son would want to see, based on the PG-13 rating.
“He’s not going to enjoy like P.S. I Love You or The Good Wife,” joked Morgan. “I didn’t even think of this when I was shooting the film, but the coolest part of anything was that two hours spent lost in this massive movie through an 8-year-old’s eyes who gets to see his dad do something different— that’s cool.”
Back in Black as Negan on The Walking Dead
Outside of Rampage, Jeffrey Dean Morgan gets to be full Negan on The Walking Dead. Fans are still wondering what’s going to happen next but it doesn’t look like Negan’s going anywhere anytime soon. In addition to the cliffhanger series, we also know that Robert Kirkman wants to keep him in the comics for the foreseeable future.
While the show and the comic are two different things, it’s hard to imagine Morgan being on a show in a jail cell for very long. Therefore, either the show will need to showcase a major time jump or Morgan will likely agree to a smaller number of episodes as the leading villain on the show.
What did you think of the movie Rampage, which stars The Rock and Jeffrey Dean Morgan?