David Morrissey has cast a wide shadow over “The Walking Dead” in its third season as the much anticipated villainous leader known as the Governor.
While the character is a sinister presence with a black eye patch and a closet full of zombie heads, Morrissey in real life is upbeat and chatty as he talks from rainy London, which is his home.
In Sunday’s episode, “Arrow in the Door,” Morrissey’s Governor finally had a sit-down with his arch nemesis, Rick, played by Andrew Lincoln. Despite an attempt to come to some kind of peace, it’s apparent that war is inevitable as the “Walking Dead” heads toward its season finale in three weeks.
Did you get together with Andrew Lincoln to rehearse your big confrontation scene with him in “Arrow in the Door”?
We didn’t rehearse it, no. What’s interesting for me about “The Walking Dead” is that I came to the show as a fan and I’ve known Andrew for a long time. Now I’m on the show and I never see Andrew. I hadn’t seen him for a long time because our characters never work with each other. So then we get to this episode where it’s the first time we’ve worked together and on the days we were shooting, we didn’t really hang out or sit down for cup a coffee. We kept our distance while we were filming. Which was fine. I think we needed to do that. We guarded our own space. Then we tried to see what happened within that dance with each other. The thing about filming a scene like that is time is not on your side. It’s not like doing a play or a movie where you’ve got a few weeks to talk about it and what the beats are. You really have to throw into it. We were making choices, not quickly or broadly, we’ve both thought about our characters and what we wanted to do. But there was very little discussion around it as a scene. We were just reacting to each other.
The western imagery was very distinct in this episode. Rick is the sheriff and you’re the man in black.
There’s a sense of guns on the hips in that world. When I drive around, I think if suddenly there was a petrol crisis, we’d be riding horses around. There’s a sense of a westernization already in the culture. Carl wears a sort of cowboy hat. It already has that going for it. The grain store. The whiskey. I always think when you see Daryl on his motorbike, he could be riding into town on a stallion. We’re never a million miles away from that genre.
How are you spending your time off from the show?
At first I was fine, but now I’m a little bit twitchy. I want to go back to work, really. At first I came home and laid down in a bed for a month, napping. Then we went on that whole thing of promoting the show. It was great. Now the second half of the season is on and I’ve had enough of being off. I want to go back to work.
So have you seen any new scripts yet?
I can’t say whether I’m coming back to the show. That’s the other thing. I say I’m ready to go back to work, but any work, really. I can’t say whether I’m in Season 4 or not. You’ll have to have to wait until the end of Episode 16 to see if I actually get through Season 3.
It’s always a tricky dance when promoting a heavily serialized show like this to speak freely without giving anything away.
I know. And you feel terribly rude. But the fans are interesting, because the fans don’t want to know. They approach you and they talk, but when you start talking about the show, they say, “Don’t tell me what happens, don’t tell me what happens!” I think that’s what’s interesting with the show and with television in general now, people want that live event. They want to be able to sit there and see it Sunday night and know that everybody else is watching it at the same time and having that similar experience. I think “The Walking Dead” is a prime example of that. People getting it right there on the tube all at the same time. It’s fantastic.
Have you ever slipped up in your interactions with fans and said too much?
I have a litte bit, yeah. But they’ve been good about correcting me sometimes. I slip up sometimes because the show comes out in America on a Sunday night but it doesn’t come out in the UK until Friday. Sometimes that can be a little bit tricky, knowing who’s seen what.
Is this the first time you’ve experienced the whole phenomenon with spoilers and secrets?
I had that majorly with “Doctor Who.” What happened in “Doctor Who,” I filmed the Christmas special. We filmed it in February. It was called “The Next Doctor” and I played the Next Doctor. I played a man who believed he was Doctor Who. We filmed it, it was great, it was a lovely episode to film. But at the end of filming, David Tennant announced he was going to stop being Doctor Who. And Russell T. Davies, who relaunched “Doctor Who,” came to me and said, “Would you mind if we leaked that the next Doctor Who is going to be you and you’ll be coming out in the Christmas special?” I said that’s great. He said “Don’t tell anyone.” I said I can tell my kids, surely. He said “No, you can’t tell anyone. They’ll tell someone else.” For a good nine months people would say to them, “Your dad is gong to be Doctor Who.” And they’d come to me, “What? What? Dad, are you going to be Doctor Who?” I couldn’t even tell them. It was really weird. It was the ultimate spoiler to be sitting there on Christmas Day, watching the special and they turn to me and say, “You’re not the next Doctor, are you?” And I said, “I never said I was!” That was a real killer.