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Q&A – David Morrissey (The Governor)

Actor David Morrissey, who plays the Governor on AMC’s The Walking Dead, talks about some presidential inspiration for his character and psychoanalyzes what’s really going on in the Governor’s head. 

Q: When did you find out that you were going to have to grow out your hair and your beard for this season?

A: Yeah they gave me a little heads up with that. I had about a month, really. But also that hair is a wig. I couldn’t have grown my hair out — that would have taken me like four years.

Q: Was that an aesthetic change you embraced?

A: I kept thinking I should go and get myself a Harley or something! In that Georgia heat it can get pretty uncomfortable with the old beard, but I liked it.

Q: The Governor takes shelter with Tara, Lilly and David. Have you ever been taken in by strangers?

A: I’ve done a lot of traveling on my own around the world and there’s been many times where I’ve met people where they’ve helped me out, and taken me in and given me a meal. Particularly when I was a younger man, that happened a lot. I was in Africa when I was about 18, and I met these Kenyan guys — I was climbing Mt. Kenya and they helped me out and I shared a meal and a campsite with them. I was in Venice once and I was sleeping in the train station and a guy there sort of let me travel with them. Those kind of traveling kindnesses have happened a lot to me.

Q: The Governor begins charming his way back into the fold this season. What kind of people have you studied in order to play him?

A: Before Season 3 I read a lot about various leaders, some from a cultish point of view. People like David Koresh, from Waco, Texas and also Jim Jones. But also I read about leaders that we all know and have all voted for. I think what’s happened with the zombie apocalypse is that the Governor has been able to offer security to a whole group of people. And he knows how to keep people in a state of indebtedness to him by creating those secure places. I think that’s very interesting; that’s what modern political leaders do all the time. They want you to be grateful to them and they want you to be worried about the other guy in the race because he’s not going to protect you like I can protect you.

Q: There are some rumors out there that you modeled your Southern accent on Bill Clinton’s — is that true?

A: There’s an audiobook of Clinton’s autobiography My Life [narrated by Clinton] which I listened to a lot, and I think it’s fascinating. I didn’t model it on Clinton in any way, I was just listening to his audiobook while doing the show. But I listened to many voices in that way and had a great accent coach.

Q: You’re married to one of Freud’s descendants. What do you think the Governor would have to say, sitting on the couch in some analyst’s office?

A: I think an analyst could take a lot of money off the Governor! I don’t think he’s a one session guy. There’s probably a lot going on there. He seems to have a bit of a megalomaniac side, and I think he’s quite angry at the world, which is giving him quite a lot to be angry about. In that Darwinian way, I think there’s an element of survival of the fittest in The Walking Dead. And sometimes you think about the fittest as someone who can run the fastest, and has the biggest muscles. Of course, the fittest is who can adapt most quickly to their surroundings, and I think that’s what happens with the Governor. He’s able to adapt very quickly to new situations that he finds himself in.

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