To celebrate the upcoming 100th episode of The Walking Dead, Yahoo TV will be posting a new TWD-related story every day through the series’ Season 8 premiere in October.
We didn’t meet him until the final episode of The Walking Dead’s sixth season, but now we can’t imagine the show without him. Jeffrey Dean Morgan has made his mark as Negan on AMC’s post-apocalyptic horror drama (sometimes literally, as victims of his barbed-wire baseball bat already know), but in real life, he makes a pretty big impression, too.
Read on for 20 things to know about Jeffrey Dean Morgan.
1. He was born in Seattle and remains a Seattle sports fan. Morgan was born on April 22, 1966, in Seattle, Washington, and lived in the area through his college years. The actor told Parade he still spends Sundays watching the Seahawks on TV.
2. His first acting role was in third grade. Morgan told Interview magazine his first acting “job” was in an elementary school theater production. “It was in third grade, and it was a fairytale, the guy that falls asleep forever,” he said. “I remember I played the character that was asleep the whole time. I was the big leader of the show, mind you. But I spent the whole time lying on the floor asleep.” His first time on a movie set came in the late 1980s when he joined his friend Billy Burke as an extra in a movie scene set in Seattle.
3. He is married to One Tree Hill actress Hilarie Burton. Morgan married his longtime love in 2014 and they have one son together.
4. He wanted to play Negan before the TV role was ever created. Morgan was a fan of The Walking Dead comic books before he was cast on the series, and he knew all about Negan, telling Interview he picked up a copy of The Walking Dead comic featuring the introduction of the antagonistic character and thought, “Oh yeah, that would be fun to play.” Fast forward five years later and Morgan got a call offering him the role of a “villain” on TWD. While the villain’s name was kept under wraps, Morgan said he “knew” who the character had to be. “I knew immediately,” Morgan said. “I knew because I watched the show and knew where we were — and I’m like, “It’s f***ing Negan! And I’m going to f***ing do it.”
5. He used to work as an artist. While he has always been creative, Morgan never intended to be an actor. Instead, he “fancied” himself an artist. “I sold paintings at bars to pay my rent,” he told Interview. Morgan no longer paints (he has since switched to photography), but still has all of his art supplies and jokes that he keeps “threatening” to paint again.
6. He owns a candy store. Since 2014, Morgan, pal Paul Rudd, and a third partner have been co-owners of Samuel’s Sweet Shop, an upstate New York candy store they saved from being closed down after the previous owner passed away. According to USA Today, Morgan and his partners peddle sugary treats like Sour Rainbow Belts and Clodhoppers at the popular candy shop.
7. He begged Shonda Rimes not to kill off his Grey’s Anatomy character, Denny Duquette. Grey’s fans remember heart patient Denny Duquette, who died in the hospital after professing his love for Izzie (Katherine Heigl). Morgan knew his characters’ days were numbered, but when the time came, he begged showrunner Shonda Rhimes to let him live. Even the network and some of the other Grey’s cast members fought for Denny’s life, but a stroke following his heart transplant did the character in. “It was a grim day, let me tell you,” Morgan told the Los Angeles Times. “I’m still not over it. It broke my heart to leave that show.”
8. He once lived in a log cabin. Morgan used to live in a log cabin on a piece of land in the Hudson Valley. He told Parade it was “the real deal,” just two rooms in the middle of the woods. “We’re like Little House on the Prairie out there, getting up in the morning to chop wood,” he said at the time. “People would laugh if they saw us, but that’s the world I’m comfortable with.”
9. He now lives on a 60-acre farm in upstate NY. Morgan and his clan outgrew the log cabin life, so they relocated to a farm a few years ago. Morgan told New York Moves he shuns the red carpet life for good old fashioned hard work. “I bought a farm out in the middle of f***ing nowhere with alpacas and llamas and cattle and dogs and I work,” he said. “That’s what I do. I just don’t have any interest in [fame]. I’d rather be a farmer. A farmer who makes movies. And Dad.”
10. He has some unique pets. In addition to his alpacas named Tony and Stella, Morgan has a llama named Wally, as well as cows, dogs, cats, ducks, and chickens all living on his working farm. During an appearance on Live with Kelly, Morgan revealed that his family enjoys fresh eggs collected from their chickens each day.
11. He can whip up a mean truffle dish. Morgan enjoys his wife’s cooking, but he knows his way around the kitchen, too. The actor told Parade he loves to cook with his signature ingredient. “I love myself a truffle,” he said. “I can put a truffle in anything and make it good.”
12. His son is his mini-me. Morgan has a young son, Gus, who also happens to be Negan’s biggest fan. The actor, who named his son after Robert Duvall’s Gus McCrae character in the miniseries Lonesome Dove, told ABC News that while his son has never seen TWD, he is a big fan of Negan and often dresses up like his dad’s alter ego. “He dresses like Negan just about every day with a red scarf,” Morgan said. “And he made a homemade (Lucille), you know the bats they give away at baseball games. He sanded the lettering off it, the Atlanta Braves lettering off of it, and drew barbed wire on it himself. And he’s little Negan.”
13. He’s a motorcycle buff. It’s no surprise he likes a bike — one of Morgan’s earliest photos is his dad holding him as a baby on his motorcycle. (Morgan even did an exact replica of the pic with his own son.) And Morgan and his TWD co-star Norman Reedus have a bit of a “bromance” fueled by their love of motorcycles. Morgan told ABC he spends a lot of time on the roads with Reedus where they unwind and shoot the breeze.
14. He lost 40 pounds on an all-tuna diet. In 2015, Morgan had to shed some quick pounds for his role as “Deaf” Smith on the History Channel miniseries Texas Rising, so he turned to tuna. Morgan told the Today Show he lost a whopping 40 pounds, going from 175 to 135 on the all-tuna diet. “I ate a can of tuna fish a day,” the actor revealed. “I did it in the most unhealthy way I could. I didn’t consult with a doctor or anything. We had said maybe we should lose, like, 10 pounds and then I just kept going and going. And by the end of the movie, I just looked like hell.”
15. He wields a baseball bat on TWD, but in high school and college, he played basketball. At Lake Washington High School, Morgan played football and was captain of the basketball team. The future actor went on to play basketball at Skagit Valley College, but an injury sidelined his hoop dreams.
16. He adopted an abandoned puppy he found while filming The Losers. Morgan rescued a puppy in Puerto Rico, adopted it, and named it Bandit Morgan. According to Sharp magazine, Morgan witnessed the puppy get hit by a car and insisted on paying for the dog’s treatment. The precious pup was later delivered to the actor’s trailer with a full body cast.” Bandit is a Shepherd mutt while Morgan’s other rescue dog, Bisou, is a Rottweiler mix.
17. While he’s best known for his TV work, the actor has appeared in more than 30 films. Morgan has a long list of film credits under his belt, including roles in Watchmen, The Resident, and Red Dawn. Morgan is currently filming the 2018 action-adventure film Rampage.
18. He has a special bond with his TWD bat, Lucille. While his barbed wire bestie, Lucille, never leaves his side when he’s on TWD, Morgan revealed that off-camera his trusty bat is kept under tight watch and controlled by the network. “On set, she’s never far from me, but unfortunately they’re not letting me take her on the talk show circuit,” Morgan said in an interview on Popcorn With Peter Travers. “There’s a whole team that handles Lucille.” The actor added: “It’s a little bit of a love affair going on between myself and Lucille, but there’s a guy that takes care of her and she’s in a foam case and I grab her and boom, there’s Negan. It does a great job of influencing where I go with my character.”
19. He drove the pace car at the 2017 Indianapolis 500. In May, Morgan drove the 2017 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport Pace Car to lead the starting field of the 101st Indianapolis 500, marking his first time in such a role but the 14th time a Corvette has served as the official Pace Car, starting in 1978.
20. He got a tattoo as a souvenir from a movie shoot. While shooting the film The Salvation in Africa, Morgan got a tattoo of the gun he used in the film. In a video posted to the movie’s Facebook page, Morgan revealed that after a few beers one night he called a tattoo artist, who came to the lodge where the movie crew was staying. Morgan added that his impromptu move inspired other cast members to get tattoos over the next several nights.
The Walking Dead Season 8 premieres October 22 at 9 p.m. on AMC.
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