The Walking Dead showrunner shares alternate Negan story line squib

SPOILER ALERT: Read only if you have watched Sunday’s midseason premiere of The Walking Dead.

Negan escaped! Negan returned!

That’s the short version of what happened with the former Saviors leader on Sunday’s “Adaptation” midseason premiere of The Walking Dead. But there was a lot more to it than that. After taking advantage of that open cell, Negan made his way out of Alexandria (with permission from Judith) and back to the Sanctuary. Only problem was, there was nobody else there. (Unless you include a zombified Big Richie, which we don’t.)

So a bored Negan went back to his cell in Alexandria. But what if the Sanctuary hadn’t been empty? What if the Saviors had still been there and welcomed him back with open arms? What then? We asked showrunner Angela Kang to tell us what would have happened in that story line with the former — and perhaps future — big bad.

Kang also shared insight into all the other big developments of the episode. What are we to make of Alpha’s daughter Lydia? Is Henry the new Carl? What’s up with that insane love quadrangle? And what does the introduction of Alpha at the very end mean moving forward? We pestered the showrunner about all that and more. (Click through both pages of the article to get all the intel, and also make sure to check out our episode Q&A with Cassady McClincy, who plays Lydia.)

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s start with this little journey you put Negan on here. It begins with Judith catching him escaping out of Alexandria, yet he convinces her to let him go by telling her, “I promise you I will not hurt anyone. Even if they try to hurt me, I promise you I won’t hurt them.” Does he mean that, Angela?ANGELA KANG: Well, it’s Negan, and he really wants to get out of there. I do think that in that moment, he at least believes he’s being sincere to Judith. Whether or not that’s totally, totally the truth may be a question, but Negan definitely on the show has been on a bit of a journey trying to figure out how to navigate life after being in prison. The major difference that we have with the comic book is that they’re in a different timeline, whereas we jumped so far ahead.

We were just thinking about this man who has had a lot of time, basically, in what was amounted to solitary confinement. Then he had a little more interaction with people, but he’s been kind of talking back and forth to Judith. I think she has had an impact on him. I do think that, at least from his perspective, he’s like, “Okay. Here’s my big opportunity to get out of here. What do I do with it?” And he’s kind of hoping that he’ll go back, and find his people, and maybe forge a new path forward. I don’t know. But yeah, it was a fun interaction to film between those two because I think they play really interesting stuff together.

Well, let’s play a little game of ‘what if’ because it’s my favorite game in the entire world. When Negan gets to the Sanctuary, he’s hanging out with Big Richie a little bit before he decides, “Hey, you know what? Being a loner in an abandoned factory, it’s not much fun.” So he heads back to his cell in Alexandria. My question is: What happens if he gets to the Sanctuary, does his little Negan whistle, and the Saviors all come out? If they had still been there, and if they’d welcomed him back, what does the Negan story become?I think in that version, if the people were there, he might have taken back over again. Then where does it go from there? That’s a different kind of story. I think that the thing with Negan is, he fundamentally is a person who wants to be around other people. He’s kind of a blowhard. He likes to tell people what’s what. There’s no fun in being alone to doing that, so we knew that we wanted to arch it that he has to, in the end, go back to Alexandria and make a choice.

So we’d already been thinking like, yeah, they’ve abandoned that Sanctuary. It broke, and there’s something about that place that he built being scattered to the winds that was fun to play with. But I kind of believe that if he had the opportunity to be the head of a group again that that might be another turn in his journey. So if he’d found all the people, I think he may have wanted to save them.

Let’s talk about the introduction of Alpha’s daughter Lydia. She alternates between telling lies and the truth, acting scared and strong. What can we make of this character and who she is?Lydia was such an interesting character in the comic book when she was revealed, and we really kind of stole that reveal straight out of the books. They think they’re up against these crazy people, and the skin masks with knives, and then they discover just kind of this doe-eyed teenage girl. It’s a question of whether or not she’s trustworthy. She’s a kid, but she’s a kid who’s obviously grown up in some pretty strange circumstances, so that’s definitely part of the story that we’re going to continue to delve into as the story unfolds.

We’ll learn more about exactly the things that drive her, how much you can trust her or not, where she comes from, how she’s become the person she is. I think there’s just some interesting things to see there. Cassady, our young actress who plays Lydia, she’s absolutely fantastic. We all just have loved having her coming to that story, and she’s done a really great job for us.

When we talked after you first did the time jump, you mentioned how with Carl now gone on the show that Judith would take on some of his comic book story lines — as we’ve seen with the relationship between her and Negan — and that Henry would take some on, as we saw with him already going to Hilltop and becoming an apprentice there. Now we see him with Lydia down in the Hilltop jail, so fair to say there may be something brewing there?There may be. I think it’s something that’s interesting in our world is there’s not a lot of young people in it. A lot of them didn’t make it, and so as with anybody, it’s sort of like how many people are there that are our peers that you can connect with? So we thought how interesting that really the adopted child of Carol and Ezekiel, who’s now being watched over by Daryl, intersects with this person who is from a completely different kind of lifestyle in the apocalypse. Henry has grown up loved, and relatively protected, and safe, and she has been out there in the wild. We just think that that’s an interesting pairing, so yeah, there will be some story to come with those two. (Continue reading our interview on next page.)

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