RISE OF THE GUV’NOR
Think you’ve seen David Morrissey somewhere but don’t quite know exactly where it was? It’s not just you. But if you see him now, you know you’d have to be careful. Where The Governor is, heads will roll…
WORDS AMANDA AAYUSYA
Last October, Total Film Indonesia found itself in a bind. The phone number given to TFI to call one of the biggest names of the third season of AMC’s The Walking Dead, David Morrissey, was not working. Only after dialing repeatedly, did we manage to get connected. Even then, we were asked to wait for a few more minutes for David’s arrival. All we could think about was: screw the phone bills – as long as we get to talk to The Governor. Or, should we say, the guv’nor?
Well, we’re not only totally crazy about the show. We admit to being obsessed with TWD the way zombies are obsessed with eating human flesh – the series is dramatic, intense and stunningly star-studded – but Morrissey is a bit of our hero as well. We’ve seen him in Basic Instinct 2, Derailed, The Other Boleyn Girl, Centurion, Blitz… and recently he was in Hollow Crown, BBC’s Shakespeare mini-series, in the Richard II part of the show along with Patrick Stewart, James Purefoy and 007’s new gadget man, Ben Whishaw. And our inner geek also recalled his outing with Tenth Doctor David Tennant in The Next Doctor, a Christmas special of Doctor Who.
He’s that kind of actor – you may not immediately remember his name, but his face is certainly recognizable. Like David Straithairn or Elias Koteas, he’s a character actor with a comprehensive CV. And his chops are undeniable – he’s done stage, TV and films. All medias covered. Now, thanks to the zombie extravaganza The Walking Dead, he’s going to be even more recognizable, face- and name-wise. Here’s a food for thought: now that he’s in a popular American hit show, would he be willing to go back to England and do Who? When we finally got to speak to David, we put the question to the guv’nor…
Let’s talk The Walking Dead, your first ever zombie gig. Is there a difference between playing in a zombie series and the other things you’ve done in your career so far?
Yeah, I’ve not encountered many zombies in my acting life so far. They’re very real. I think one of the wonderful things about being in the series is Greg Nicotero, who is the head of the special effects that do such a brilliant job, that you really don’t have to that much of your imagination to imagine what it would be like to be confronted by these terrible things. And the guys who play them, I’m told, come at 4 in the morning and then have them go into make-up and stand under the terrible Georgian heat. They are wonderful people who work very hard to bring these characters to life. So, yeah, it’s a challenge but it’s also wonderful to do. I think it’s an amazing creation done by an amazing team.
What’s your opinion on the rising zombie trend these days?
Oh is there a trend? I went to Comic-Con and I saw that zombies were very present. It’s not a genre I’ve followed in my life previously or a world I’ve inhabited. I came to the show as a fan of the show but I wasn’t a huge fan of zombie films or zombie culture. So it’s all very new to me.
We heard you read the novel, Rise Of The Governor, to prepare for your role, The Governor. Since then, have you read the comic books and do you know how your character will end up?
Yes, I have read the graphic novels since then but I don’t know where my character is headed. I know where he heads in the graphic novels but I don’t know whether that’s where he heads for in the TV show. You know, the writers of the TV show are the respectful of the novel but they don’t follow the story lines. They’re as close as they are in the books but sometimes they do divert from them. So even though I’ve read the comics and I know what happens to The Governor, I don’t know what happens to him in the TV show at all.
What’s the story behind your Governor’s look on the show? He’s not the same as he was in the comics, with long hair and an eye-patch?
One of the things about the Governor in the TV series is that he’s different. In the comic, the Governor arrives fully formed. He’s there and he’s sadistic, he looks the way he looks and he’s obviously had a history. And in the TV show, we meet him much earlier on and he’s quite… in his genesis. He’s a man who needs to grow and we give him time to grow and you can see the things that happen to this man. And I like that, that we meet him earlier in his life. But the look is different. That’s a look that we all worked on together. There’s a sense that the Governor’s look in the comics is a classic baddie look and it looks similar to other baddies so we wanted to make him different.
So what are the biggest challenges in playing the character?
There’s the challenge of playing him as an actor. There’s also the challenge for myself, which is being in this Georgia heat, the heat is quite stifling and it’s very humid. And there are lots of bugs in Georgia. So there are different challenges, really. But being on the show is a real pleasure for me. So even the challenges I think are wonderful to have. I love playing him so much and I’m having a lot of fun with him.
Sorry we’re going to bring up the past now. You were in a Doctor Who Christmas special. Now that you’re in The Walking Dead, would you ever consider going back to do Who?
First of all, I love Doctor Who, it was a great show, and it’s a brilliant nuanced show. Russell T Davies who created the show and brought the show back is a wonderful man and I’d love to work with him so yes, I’d like to join that ship.
Do you find any differences between working in television in the UK and in the US?
There aren’t a lot of differences between British TV and American TV. The main difference is money. The budgets here are much better than the budgets in the UK. For an hour show, we have a lot more money to create these mini movies. The budget that we have in The Walking Dead a lot of films would be envious about.
We all know The Governor is a creepy, frightening character. Do you consider yourself to be a scary man?
Yes, especially if you don’t do your homework on time. [laughs]
Before we say goodbye, we’d like to know which one scares you more: zombies or aliens?
Zombies scare me more because I’m around them all the time. I think one of the most frightening moments that happened to me on the set was 2 or 3 days after I arrived. I was walking down the corridor in the studios and I walked into a room, thinking it was one of my dressing rooms, but it was actually the zombies’ dressing room. There were 4 of them just sitting there and they looked at me as I walked in. I absolutely jumped out of my skin. So zombies… they really haunt my dreams; aliens, not so much. I mean, aliens could be benign and wonderful creatures, whereas zombies always want to eat you. There are no negotiations with zombies!
The Indonesian version of this interview was published in Total Film Indonesia magazine, issue 36, November 2012. Please do not copy and/or print this interview anywhere without permission. To buy a copy of this magazine, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.