Fans had known for months that the Season 6 finale of The Walking Dead would introduce Negan, with Jeffrey Dean Morgan coming aboard to star as the iconic villain from Robert Kirkman's comic books. We first meet Negan after the Saviors had set a trap for Rick and his crew, with Negan picking one member of Rick's crew to kill, as punishment for the slaughter of his men earlier on this season. But we never saw who was killed by this villain. Entertainment Weekly caught up with executive producer Greg Nicotero, who also directed last night's season finale, Last Day on Earth, and he revealed that none of the cast members know who was killed off in the finale.
"No. It was specifically written that way. The POV shot looking up at Negan in that last moment, I don't think anyone on that knew what happened. As a matter of fact, if I'm not mistaken, I think we had wrapped all of the actors, because the shot we did with Negan, the sun was coming up and Jeffrey was about to get on a plane and fly back to New York and we didn't have anybody there because we didn't want even somebody on the crew or somebody there to go, 'Oh I get it, I know what's going to happen.' So I think they were all gone. We built a little rig for Jeffrey to hit so that there would be impact with the baseball bat."
Right before Negan chooses who to kill, we see his baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire, dubbed Lucille, stopping in front of every character. Greg Nicotero said the episode was always intended to end in this fashion, cutting between characters more rapidly before Negan makes his final decision on who to kill. Fans of the comic books know that Negan's introductory speech is laced with profanities, which couldn't be uttered on television. Greg Nicotero revealed that an uncensored version of this scene will be available for fans on the Blu-ray release.
"We had to shoot two versions - we had to shoot the Blu-ray version, which had a lot of the swearing and a lot of Negan's colorful language, and then we had to shoot the broadcast version. So when you get the DVD or the Blu-ray version, that will have the full Negan speech from the graphic novel."
Many fans reacted quite negatively to the cliffhanger ending, with showrunner Scott M. Gimple stating on the Talking Dead after-show that the ending will only work if they deliver with a powerful Season 7 premiere. The director teased that he "roughly" knows the story for the Season 7 premiere, while addressing the negative backlash. Here's what he had to say, agreeing with Scott M. Gimple's statement about delivering with the Season 7 premiere, while comparing the negativity to how some fans reacted to HBO's Game of Thrones season finale last summer.
"Oh yeah, I 100 percent agree. I haven't read anything on 701 yet, but I know roughly the story. Without a doubt it's going to be an amazing season premiere. I don't think he's wrong. Of course, I felt like he was saying that to me. Like, "Hi Greg, this is going to be your 16th episode that you're directing so don't screw it up. A lot of people are going to be watching." I always feel like the pressure that I have to realize these scenes, like introducing Negan and killing Jesse, Sam, and Ron. It's a lot of responsibility. Nobody loves The Walking Dead more than Scott M. Gimple. You can quote me on that a thousand times over, because we're making the show that we want to watch. It's unfortunate that some people are very vocal and very negative about the choices that we make, but the bottom line is that this is a show I would watch. I watched Game of Thrones last year and I'm excited for that show to come back online. Was I shocked at the end of last season? Yeah, but I don't read anything on the Internet like, 'Oh, I think this happened and that happened.' I just want the filmmakers to take me on that journey, and that's what we do: we take our audience on a journey. The graphic novel is going into a dark, dark place, and Robert Kirkman said it himself: in the graphic novels, every one of them ends with a cliffhanger, and it is dark. That's what this story deserves. I know everyone's anxious to get back to work and everyone's very excited about where the show is going, all the way from Andrew Lincoln and down. It's like we're starting over again and it's great."
In the comic books, Negan kills Glenn Rhee, played by Steven Yeun, a character who went through a near-death experience early on this season. The show has often altered stories from the comics, such as sparing Abraham Ford (Michael Cudlitz), who died in the 98th issue of the comics after taking a crossbow arrow to the head. Instead, Alexandria doctor Denise Cloyd (Merritt Wever) was killed in a similar fashion by the Savior Dwight (Austin Amelio), using the crossbow he stole from Daryl (Norman Reedus). Who do you think Negan killed in The Walking Dead season finale? Visit Entertainment Weekly for the site's full interview with Greg Nicotero.