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David Morrissey: Nobody's Safe on 'The Walking Dead'

'We're not doing Star Trek,' says the actor. 'We don't beam down with three leading actors and one guy we've never seen before, and you know which one isn't getting back to the ship'

October 9, 2013 3:25 PM ET
David Morrissey Governor
David Morrissey as the Governor on 'The Walking Dead'
Frank Ockenfels/AMC

In anticipation of The Walking Dead's season premiere on Sunday, October 13th, Rolling Stone will publish an exclusive interview with a new cast or crew member every day this week. Yesterday, Robert Kirkman – who created the comic book series – said he's comfortable writing 1,000 more issues and already has an ending in mind. Tomorrow, Andrew Lincoln (who appears on the cover of our new issue) will explain why everyone falls behind Rick Grimes.

See Where Rick's Change of Heart Falls on Our List of Season Three's Shockers

What did you know about The Walking Dead before you signed on?
I've known Andrew Lincoln for a long time. He's a friend of mine. I saw the trailers and thought, "It's a zombie show." Then I watched the pilot and went "Oh, no. It's about human nature. It's a great forum to explore the depths of human survival." I watched the first season and thought it was this sort of mad, Shakespearean world.

How much input did you have in the Governor's character development?
I felt it was important to look at this man and see what he was like before the character that we know and love from the comics emerged. The guy in the comic is fully formed. When we meet him, he's psychotic. He's evil. I didn't want to play that guy. I wanted you to have an understanding of him and a compassion for him and find the complexities in him, because I think that's truer to the world. I don't think he's a sadistic person. This world has had its affect on him. Also, at the beginning of season three, he's done an amazing thing. He's created this town in the middle of this apocalypse. He's created this place where your kids can run into the streets and you don't have to worry about them. He's created security. Now, security comes at a price. Our leaders do that to us all the time. So he's playing with that paranoia, using the external threat to keep these people in check, so he'll be able to govern these people. That, for us in the 21st century in the world we live in, is very tangible. We can understand that.

Why does the show hit such a chord?
It's a great forum to explore the extremes of human emotion. It's not a war zone, it's a fantasy thing, and yet the people are experiencing the base level of human survival. That's very potent. When Hurricane Sandy happened, people said, "The streets just look like The Walking Dead." There's a reference point there. What I love about the show is that it's not afraid of killing off its favorite characters. That really gives it a reality. We're not doing Star Trek. We don't beam down with three leading actors and one guy we've never seen before, and you know which one isn't getting back to the ship. Everybody is in danger all the time.  I was at Comic-Con and saw a t-shirt that said, "If you kill Daryl, we'll riot." Somebody asked Robert Kirkman about it, and he went, "You know, the more they shout, the more I think I'm going to." No one is safe.

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