The Walking Dead: David Morrissey On How Studying The Black Death Helped Him Play The Governor

Andrea (Laurie Holden) with The Governor (David Morrissey) in Season 3, Episode 3 of AMC's 'The Walking Dead' Andrea (Laurie Holden) with The Governor (David Morrissey) in Season 3, Episode 3 of AMC's 'The Walking Dead'

British actor David Morrissey made his debut as The Governor in AMC’s “The Walking Dead” on Sunday and his portrayal of the villain was informed by history.

“I think one of the things that the show explores is the idea of human nature in crisis. One of the things I’ve been reading a lot of is about how the Black Death in the 1300s affected Europe and how people sort of ghettoized themselves, how that spread fear and blame, but also, how that was seen by some people as a cathartic thing, a new thing, the world starting again. So I think ‘The Walking Dead’ has always explored big themes,” David told AccessHollywood.com over the summer as he filmed scenes which finally aired this past weekend.

To play the man in charge of Woodbury, David said he picked up a number of historical novels.

“There’s a great book called ‘The Black Death and the Transformation of the West,’ which I would urge anybody to read and that’s all about how, every aspect to society in Europe changed during that time — it’s religion, it’s education and it’s industry — all those things,” he said.

On Sunday night’s episode, fans of the television show met The Governor for the first time when he took in Andrea (Laurie Holden) and Michonne (Dania Gurira).

He claimed he wasn’t keeping the two women prisoner, but behind the scenes was encouraging Milton (David Atlas) and Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker) to see what information they could glean from the women about the group Andrea was previously a part of, and why Michonne had two zombies chained to her for months.

The episode ended with The Governor seated in a private room, looking at a series of fish tanks full of zombie heads (including the helicopter pilot the Woodbury nurse had been treating), but showrunner Glen Mazzara told Access just last week that fans are likely to be able to empathize with The Governor character, in some way.

“You will. You will. He’s tricky. You never know what to expect,” Glen said. “Every scene, he’s playing something different so I hope the audience stays on their toes.”

Creator Robert Kirkman similarly told Access, previously, that The Governor is a tricky character.

“The Governor isn’t your normal every day ruin of the mill villain, he is the embodiment of everything the world of ‘The Walking Dead’ can do to a person and the fact that he reaches the levels of villainy that he reaches is due in large part to the experiences that he goes through,” Robert said. “[David], more than any other actor, just wanted to kind of dig in and embody that character and be able to play all the different levels that this guy shows. One minute he’s your best friend, the next minute he’s not your best friend and you’re dead. It’s a big role and I don’t think anybody other than David Morrissey could have done as good a job as he’s doing.

“That role really is three or four different characters thrown into one,” he added.

As fans of the graphic novels know, (SPOILER ALERT AHEAD!) that statement hinted at the Governor’s multi-identity past and Robert said to tune in.

“If you’ve read the novel, you’ll have to see what we do with that,” he said. “But, he’s very methodical with like what parts of himself that he shows to other people and how he represents himself.”

-- Jolie Lash

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