The role of Negan on The Walking Dead could have been very different, as according to Scooby-Doo star Matthew Lillard, he was nearly cast as the iconic villain. Portrayed by Jeffrey Dean Morgan on the hit AMC zombie drama, the Negan character is as dastardly as they come, responsible for the heinous deaths of multiple fan favorite characters.
Speaking with fans at the Scream panel at the Walker Stalker Con in Atlanta, Georgia, Matthew Lillard made the claim that not only did he try out for the part, he came very close to getting cast. Here's how the actor explains how he came to audition for the part of Negan, as transcribed by FanFest.
"So I got a call. They said they want you to audition for The Walking Dead. It's a big part. I'm like okay cool. I didn't watch the show, sorry. So I went in to audition and they loved it. They were like wow they really loved it you're in the running for this part. I'm like oh that's great. It usually means it's going to somebody else."
After apparently nailing his Negan audition, Lillard also explained he was called back for another tryout, as producers wanted to see the extent of his range. Further than that, Lillard also clearly suggests the part came down to just two actors, with Morgan presumably the other name in the running. While Lillard felt happy with his second audition for Negan, it ultimately fell short of landing him the part. As Lillard goes to explain.
"And they were like hey they want you to come back and do it again. They don't want you to be as funny, they want you to be a little more dramatic. I was like okay. So I went back in and did it again. And they were in Atlanta and I was working and doing the audition in LA. So they were like it's between you and another guy and they want you to come in one more time. And they want you to come in one more time and they want to see if you can do both of them at the same time. Funny and dramatic."
The casting process for Negan seems to have certainly been an interesting one behind the scenes of The Walking Dead. In the original comic book series, the character was physically based on Henry Rollins. Oddly enough, Rollins himself auditioned for the part as this would theoretically make him a shoo-in for it, but he apparently wasn't what producers were looking for with the live-action version of Negan. It had also been reported names like Garret Dillahunt, Matt Dillon, and Timothy Olyphant had also auditioned for the role. News of Lillard's potential casting in the role seems to have gone unreported until the recent reveal from the actor himself.
As we all know now, Jeffrey Dean Morgan was ultimately cast, and given the success of the casting, it's hard to argue with the results. With Morgan wielding the bat, the character quickly became one of the most popular personalities on The Walking Dead, despite his status as a villain. This has contributed to the longevity of the character, and as more fan favorites like Carl, Rick, and Michonne continue to leave the series, Morgan's role as Negan is becoming increasingly more important. Even so, it's easy to see why missing out on the part would be a bummer for Lillard, who's perhaps best known for his family-friendly role as Shaggy in the live-action Scooby-Doo movies.
In jest, Lillard also jokingly told Walking Dead fans he "just wants to say f--- you" anytime he sees a Negan shirt with Morgan's face on it. He may not have gotten the part of Negan, but we'll still always remember his role as another homicidal maniac, Stu Macher, in Wes Craven's classic horror flick Scream. Still, it's hard not to wonder what could have been. This news comes to us from FanFest.