He made a sharp turn off the path of anger and into total insanity during the Season 3 finale of “The Walking Dead,” but on Sunday night’s episode of the AMC series, David Morrissey’s The Governor seemed to find his humanity again, thanks to a pinky-swearing little girl.
It happened after a bleak journey that saw him give up the fight, before he was quickly abandoned by the two men who had stood beside him (Martinez and Shumpert). Alone, he stood in silence, observing Woodbury, his former community, now awash in walkers and flames. Later, he wandered aimlessly through the back country, only managing to escape the bite of walkers simply because he’d actually turned into the walking, living dead.
But then, the man who had been The Governor, who was at death’s door, saw a little girl in an apartment building window and everything started to change.
In a new interview with AccessHollywood.com, David addressed how the youngster, her mother and aunt brought The Governor back to life, the name change to Brian and what was really in the tin his character opted to eat instead of a hot bowl of spaghetti circles.
AccessHollywood.com: When we first met you at Comic-Con two years ago, I remember asking you if your character’s name was Brian or Philip. As of Sunday night, he’s going by Brian. Why does he decide to call himself Brian?
David Morrissey: In the episode, what he’s doing is he’s sort of deciding to be this nomadic man. … He’s sort of in trauma. He’s walking around and he sees this thing which is — it’s like a monument really, but it’s an old barn and on it are messages for people who are out there. And he sees a message for a man called Brian. It says, ‘Don’t go there, come here,’ sort of thing. And then, when he meets up with the family, he suddenly finds himself reinventing his story. He suddenly starts telling them about another guy, who we know as the audience he’s talking about The Governor, he’s talking about himself, but he sort of is reinventing himself. As he’s saying that, he’s seeing that there might be a chance for him to be a different person and when they say, ‘What’s your name?’ he just comes out with that name because it obviously registered with him and he can be that man. Obviously something happened to him when he saw that name and it’s just come out. … It’s just purely the name that he saw on that wall.
Access: The young girl, Megan — there’s a great moment when he sees her in the window, and a few more — when they talk about the eye patch and also when she hands him the little king on the chess set. How did those moments change him as a person? In each one, he seems to open up a little more.
David: Yeah… what happens at the beginning is we get right to the end of Season 3, really, and we see him on the road with Martinez and Shumpert and he’s sort of a dead man. He’s lost all of his senses. … The last semblance of human instinct is keeping him alive and just as he’s about to lose that and… just about to die in the streets, he looks up and he sees this vision of this little girl, which obviously resonates with him from his daughter and it gives him this sort of connection to his past. … He doesn’t even know if he’s hallucinating or what, and then, when he gets there, he finds this family who are holed up in this apartment block and then they ask him for help and he doesn’t want to help them. He knows that human connection/contact is his downfall. He knows that’s what will kill him really, and he doesn’t want to feel, and what’s great about kids is they get right through all that social convention and they just say things which can sound quite rude sometimes. And the girl just says to him, ‘How did you lose your eye?’ And he suddenly [tells her] he was a pirate and her reaction is amazing. It makes him laugh and it breaks him up. It’s like the idea that he can laugh and that someone can make him laugh and that he can play in that way, like he used to play with his daughter — that really breaks him up and starts to wake this man again. … The girl gives him this little chess piece with this drawing on it and again, it’s human contact. It means that you mean something to me and he finds that really both hard to take and lovely, but it means he’s caring.
Access Do you think having women around him is helpful to changing who he is at this point?
David: I think right at this point it is. If he’d come across a community of guys with guns — there’s nothing for him to do there. They’re the people he’s trying to avoid. He doesn’t want to sort of engage with those guys. What awakens him is people who are vulnerable, people who are going to suffer. The world is gonna sort of not be good to them and they appeal to him in a real visceral way. She actually says to him, ‘You’ve already made this choice. You’ve already said you’ll help us just by being here.’ And she’s right. And he has to sort of take that on and I think it’s hard for him, but you’re right. It’s to do with the fact that they are vulnerable people in this terrible world is what he has to sort of respond to.
Access: One thing he didn’t respond to is the Spaghetti-Os. Was he eating cat food instead?
David: (Laughs) He was eating tuna, which — it can be used as cat food, but he was eating tuna. I think there’s a reason he throws the spaghetti hoops away. [It has] to do with the fact that he doesn’t want to be indebted to anybody. She’s given him a gift and he doesn’t want it.
Access: Although tuna is protein and that’s probably a much healthier option for him.
David: Maybe. I don’t think that’s why he’s doing it. I don’t think he’s on a non-carbs diet in the zombie apocalypse (laughs). I don’t think that’s where he’s going with that.
Access: You had quite the look in this episode with that hair and beard. Did your wife see you looking like that?
David: No. Well, actually I did grow a beard in England… but then, when I got to Georgia, of course we start with the end of Episode 5 and at the end of Episode 5, I’m completely clean shaven, so they went, ‘Oh, we don’t need your beard. We’re gonna shave it off.’ And I was like, ‘Oh.’ But no, the wife and kids didn’t see me in that guise, which was good.
Access: Obviously they’ve seen many of your roles over the years… Are you prepared for their reactions to this look?
David: Well, yeah. My kids have had that all their life, that there’s a sense that you know, they sit down in the front of the TV with me and I come on and they often just scream, ‘No! Dad! What! I’ve gotta go to school on Monday!’ (laughs). … It’s a very [different] look, but it’s a very different man as well. What will be interesting for me, from the fans’ point of view, is he is a different man in this. We get a glimpse of that [former] man, when he kills the old man in the bed, with the oxygen tank. There’s a glimmer of him enjoying that too much. When he’s in the pit at the end with Megan, he’s able to fight in a way that is very, very sort of visceral. So you know, we get flashes of him, but he’s a different man.
Access: The @TheWalkingDead Twitter account Tweeted a poll on Friday, ‘Who should kill the governor?’ Are you hoping that after people see the episode that they don’t want to answer that question anymore?
David: Yeah, I mean it’s interesting isn’t it? I think you see a different side to this man. What a lot of people ask me is, ‘What is he doing outside the prison in Episode 5?’ And for me, it’s like saying, ‘Don’t preempt him, don’t preempt what he’s doing there, don’t preempt his actions.’ The person that he was might not be the person that he is now, so I think they might think of him differently, but I think also they have a lot of information about what this man can do. I think what he’s living with is this slight Jekyll and Hyde existence himself. He knows the capabilities of himself — that he can go to a very dark place, and I think he’s worried about that and I think that’s part of why he doesn’t want to be so close to other human beings sometimes is the fact that he has this capacity [for] violence and that he can have this blackout, almost, of violence… He’s a volatile person. The very thing that the audience feels about him, I think he feels that about himself.
“The Walking Dead” airs Sunday nights at 9/8c on AMC
-- Jolie Lash