For those of you who have been following The Walking Dead‘s routinely excellent sixth season, you’ll know that, with the exception of that trio of deaths in the mid-season return, things have been looking more positive in general for Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and company. Sure, the biters are still around and quite hungry, and the Jesus fella is a little too shifty for my comfort, but Rick seems to be opening up and he might have a new romance on his hands, if the last episode is any indication.
That will be coming to a halt awfully quick in a few weeks with the arrival of Jeffrey Dean Morgan‘s brutal Negan, whose name was thrown around a bit in the mid-season opener by those leather-clad fellas who were promptly dispatched. Negan’s penchant and skill for violence is what’s been spoken about most thus far, but there’s another, lesser matter that clearly needs some consideration, that being his, er, colorful language. That is to say that the character produces profanity like most people produce saliva, and as AMC is a cable network, one cannot simply be throwing around four-letter words as willfully as creator Robert Kirkman and company do in the comics.
With Negan’s entrance coming up in three episodes, EW talked to Morgan and three of the show’s top producers – Kirkman, showrunner Scott M. Gimple, and producer-director Greg Nicotero – about how they will deal with the language barrier. One suggestion that they put forth is that they might shoot two versions of scenes with Negan that have him saying things that would make Andrew Dice Clay blanch. Here’s what all of them had to say:
“Look, it’s a speed bump. I’m not going to say it’s an issue because they’re working on it. We’re going to push AMC — the plan is to push them as far as they can because it’s who Negan is. He uses some colorful language. And I use some colorful language. And reading the comic, it’s important. So we’ll see where that lands. It’s our intention that this character is going to leap off the pages of the comic book. It’s very important that that’s who it is. Some of the characters there’s much more leeway, but Negan is a guy that you want to keep as true as possible, and that would be how I want to play him as well.”
“[Shooting two versions of Negan’s entrance] would be a very good guess. We’ve talked about that. Even back when Michael Cudlitz was cast as Abraham we were like, ‘Damn, how are we going to deal with Abraham’s dialogue?’ And I think Gimple went, ‘Yeah, Abraham’s dialogue is fine. It’s Negan that we’re going to have problems with because every other word of Negan’s is f—.’ There is a rhythm to it that even in some of the takes that we did. What I affectionately call the ‘f— takes’ have a completely different rhythm to them and a completely different feel. So while editing it, I was very careful to make sure that I preserved a lot of the performance without getting myself into trouble with the profanity.”
“I’m still finishing up season 6, so there are still aspects of these questions that I’m figuring out. But I will say that my goal is for, at the very least, in some way — might not be all the time, and it might not even be directly through your TV box — that people will be able to get full-octane Negan. I’m still playing around with it, but I will say I do have the material two ways right now. I’ll see what I can do with it. One way or another I want people to see full-octane Negan. Will I be able to shoot every scene like that? Probably not, but to tell you the truth, I think we will get as close to the version of full-octane Negan as we can through some version of the show or another.”
“I would say that there are certain words that try as I might, we are not allowed to say on AMC, and those are certain words that Negan likes to say. So those words are going to be filmed, and people are going to be able to get those words, but there are definitely some broadcast limitations that we’re going to have to deal with. We’re sorting that out now, but I will say that, worst-case scenario, the extras will be extra-special on Blu-ray. I mean, we’re trying to explore some other more interesting options, but that’s the bare minimum of what we’ll be doing.”