[SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched Sunday’s episode of The Walking Dead.]
Remember that kinder, gentler version of the Governor we were introduced to last week on The Walking Dead? You know, the one who was rocking a wacky beard and retrieving oxygen tanks for sick old men? Well, he was decidedly less kind and less gentle in this latest episode (titled “Dead Weight”). First off, he clubbed Martinez with…well, a golf club, and then fed him to zombies. After that, he killed poor Pete (who made the mistake of not raiding another camp for supplies). By the end of the episode, the Governor was back in charge of a group of people, and with his gun trained on his old nemesis Michonne.
We spoke with the man who plays the Governor, David Morrissey, to get his insight on what we saw from the former Woodbury leader in these past two episodes. Was it the lure of power or need for safety that caused the man to go on yet another murderous rampage? How stable (or unstable) is this guy? And how was he able to play the character in so many different stages over the past two episodes? David Morrissey shares all! Well…almost all. (Click through both pages to read the entire interview.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: At first we thought the Governor was maybe a changed man after all he went through. But then we see him murdering his old pal Martinez and then murdering the person that took over as leader after Martinez, so maybe he hasn’t changed so much after all. Or maybe the methods haven’t changed but the motivation has? What’s your take on him at this point in the story and why he did what he did?
DAVID MORRISSEY: Well, the thing about him is I think he’s a man that we see struggling to stay away from that awful responsibility of leadership. He doesn’t want that. He wants to be led. He wants to protect the people he loves. And he’ll do anything he can to protect them, even be subservient if that’s what is needed. He’s in that community with Martinez and I think he just wants to be a quiet civilian, really. But he sees weak leadership around him. He sees the people there who say, “We’ll protect you,” and they’re not able to protect them. They’re not able to protect the people he loves. So he’s forced to take responsibility the only way he knows how and with the thing that has served him in the past, and that is being ruthlessly vigilant when it comes to his duty in leadership and protection.
Nobody else is going to do it. He’s got to step up. He’s got natural leadership qualities so he has to step up and do it. And he doesn’t want to do it, and what we love about him and what we admire about him is his fight before he takes up the reins. He tries to get out. He says to Lilly, “This place isn’t going to be safe anymore. It’s not safe. Things are going to be bad here.” And what he means is things are going to be bad with him. He can feel that dark side rising inside of himself and he’s trying to get away from it. And he can’t get away from it. He tries and he hits this wall of zombies and he knows that he’s got to go back and face that camp and face those people and take the reins of leadership.
EW: Is the Martinez killing a moment of just pure madness where he is fighting against his own impulses? He’s been so emotionally shut down until that point and then we see some of that madness bubble up to the surface.
MORRISSEY: I think Martinez makes the mistake of admitting weakness. He says to the Governor, “I’m not sure I can keep this place safe.” Had he turned around to the Governor on that day where he was playing golf and said, “There is no way this camp is not going to be safe. I’m going to make it safe. I’m going to do everything I can to make it safe,” then the Governor is going to say, “Great, I’ll follow you.” But as soon as the man admits weakness, then the Governor is going to take control. And the Governor is killing him and screaming, “I don’t want it!” What he doesn’t want is the responsibility. He doesn’t want the responsibility he is forced to take because of this man’s weakness. That’s very important. He’s putting a crown on his head that he doesn’t want. But nobody else but him is worthy of wearing it.
EW: And then he kills the one brother, Pete, and takes over the camp because he feels it’s the best way to protect this new family he’s come across. But once gets back in that seat of power, does he start to become comfortable again in that role?
MORRISSEY: The reason he kills the brother is because he doesn’t want weakness. He’s learned form the past that weakness and doubt is a very infectious disease. So he gets rid of the weakness and goes for the strength and the strength is the other brother. For a minute the audience thinks what the Governor is about to do is go kill the bad guy. He’s gonna go kill the tank driver. But he kills the good brother because he knows that he’s got to take that mantle and he’s got to rid of that weakness — the weakness of doubt. His leadership qualities come, I think. He’s a man that’s not afraid to make tough decisions and that’s why he’s a force to be reckoned with.