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Q&A – David Morrissey (The Governor)

British actor David Morrissey, who plays The Governor on AMC’s The Walking Dead, talks about some unexpected overlaps with his character’s tastes and explains how the role finally earned him some respect at home.

Q: This is your first season on the show. Was there a learning curve to get up to speed with The Walking Dead?

A: I was very nervous about joining the show on the first day, but once I got there it’s been a joy ever since. There’s an element about needing to know about the conditions: the heat and the humidity and the snakes and bugs and ticks. You have to have a little bit of an outward bound course before you start filming. Those things are different for me, because normally it’s like, “How do I get to the canteen.” But I do think those crazy brutal conditions add to the show — because the show’s all about that. It isn’t a comfortable place to be and that’s important.

Q: How much of the Governor’s backstory have you sketched out?

A: I feel that the Governor is someone who before the event was a pretty middle-management type guy. He didn’t have the status before, but now he’s walking that tightrope of leadership about what he needs to do as a leader. It’s all relatively new to him.

Q: As a British actor, is there anything you do to prevent lapsing back into your accent on-set?

A: I stay in accent as much as I can. We have a crew of locals, and whenever I go get my coffee or groceries I can hear the accent. So the accent is around me all the time and that’s been an advantage.

Q: Do you ever take the Governor home with you?

A: The Governor would be a pretty tough character to take home — I don’t think my wife would like that. He’s a pretty intense man to play and there is a darkness to him, which can get inside your head sometimes. Thankfully, I have quite a long drive from the location back here to Atlanta, so I often put on a bit of rock music on the way home — the Rolling Stones or whatever — and that tends to get the character out of my head.

VIDEO: Inside The Walking Dead Season 3 Episode 3, “Walk With Me”

Q: Do you ever have to do the reverse: put on some music to get into your character’s head?

A: On every job that I do, I have some sort of playlist that I use. And that can get me into character in a good way and get me into that mood. Of course different scenes require different moods and different music as well. At the moment I have a band called 16 Horsepower which I really like. Sometimes I throw a bit of jazz in there — John Coltrane and Miles Davis — something like that that can get me into certain moods. The Stones are always good to get me going. I can get into some Chet Baker, Art Pepper type stuff as well.

Q: Do you think you share musical tastes with the Governor?

A: I think the Governor’s got quite an odd taste, but it probably does cross over into mine. I do use classical music quite a bit in my iPod. Sometimes words and lyrics can get into your head, and what you want is just the music, so I use jazz and classical music for that.

Q: Back home in the UK — do your friends and family have a different reaction to the show than fans here?

A: For me it’s very interesting because I have a 17-year-old son. I’ve been working for a long time as an actor and he’s usually quite blasé about whatever I’m doing. If I tell him I’m playing the lead in a Shakespeare play he’s like, “Oh, whatever.” Or if I tell him I just got an award for a TV show in the UK, he’s like, “Oh, yeah, well. ” But when I told him I was doing The Walking Dead he was like, “No, you’re joking dad. That’s fantastic!” It’s made me cool in my son’s eyes.

Click here to read a Season 1 interview with Michael Rooker, who plays the Governor’s right-hand man Merle Dixon.

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