The mid-season finale of AMC's "The Walking Dead" is creeping up on us. David Morrissey, who portrays this season's lead villain The Governor on the series, spoke with Vulture about getting into the head of the man who collects other people's heads.
Morrissey credits extensive research as key to gaining a better understanding of his creepy character and the world he inhabits. "I read a little bit about cults and cult leaders. I read anything about the corruption of power. The 48 Laws of Power was quite interesting. The Black Death and the Transformation of the West is a wonderful series of essays about the plague and Europe in the thirteenth century, and how towns and villages ghettoized themselves against this terrible plague and how they walled themselves in," Morrissey said. "I also read The Things They Carried, about a man, who is a good man, in the middle of this hellish situation, and how as an adult he carries that on, trying to square the things he’d done during war. That book was really important to me to see how people turn. 1984 I read thinking about how one is able to manipulate a group of people. I think the Governor’s got some mind control over his populace... I read many things."
While The Governor of "The Walking Dead" comics could be considered a black-and-white villain, his television counterpart is taking a somewhat more subtle approach. Morrissey sees his character less as an outright villain and more as a broken man who is learning what he is capable of in this new society with each passing day. "The Governor certainly reveals more of himself in the scene with Maggie. I felt you could see that the Governor was doing it for the first time," he said. "He doesn’t strike me as someone who is a seasoned interrogator or torturer. He’s someone who is walking into that room and thinking, How am I going to play this? How is this going to work? How is this woman going to react to my interrogation? He’s discovering things about himself and how far he can go. This world is as new for him as it is for everyone else. I don’t feel that in his past life he was in any way a dark, mysterious, sadistic figure. What’s happened to him since the incident is he’s built a community that he’s very proud of and very defensive of, and he has a reason for that and it’s his daughter. He wants to protect her."
Just as the other characters are finding ways to cope in the new post-apocalyptic world, Morrissey feels The Governor is attempting to find his own way, and that includes the heads in the fish tanks that so many viewers saw as trophies. Morrissey disagrees, stating, "I don’t feel like the heads are trophies. This man is trying to desensitize himself to this terrible world he’s found himself in. He’s going to look it right in the face. A lot of soldiers I’ve talked to in the past use this technique, demonizing their enemy in a way that’s very important for them to go into combat. It is freaky, but I don’t think it’s a perverse action on his part... I think there is a conscience in there, a slight sense of troubled man. I really do. You see who he was with Penny, and a little bit with Andrea."
What's your take on The Governor? Broken soul or sociopath taking advantage of a new status quo?