Steven Ogg, who plays Simon on AMC’s The Walking Dead, talks about going against Negan and who’s really in charge at the Sanctuary.
Q: Simon is not a character from Robert Kirkman’s comics. Did that give you more range when you brought him to the screen?
A: Not having a blueprint is good and bad. You do have a bigger playing field because you’re not beholden to any structure. You can make it up as you go along, if you will, but the downside is that you’re making it up as you go along. [Laughs] It’s exciting and challenging because you have to make decisions based on what’s right in front of you without knowing what’s ahead.
Q: We’ve rarely seen Simon and Negan together. Does that speak to how much Simon is trusted as his right-hand man?
A: That’s certainly how I was taking it. Jeffrey [Dean Morgan] and I were like, “We’re never together! What’s up? When do we get to work together?” He’s trusted and there’s a long leash. If you trust someone, you don’t need to be around them all the time. It’s like, “There are all these outposts and things to do, you’re my trusted right-hand man, so off you go.” He sort of runs his own thing in the Savior world.
Q: There may be some similarities between Negan and Simon, but it’s becoming clear that each is his own man. How would you compare and contrast the two?
A: I think they’re both committed to surviving. Certainly, some different methods are coming out and it’s been interesting to see. What you expect from Negan is not necessarily what you’re getting and the same can be said for Simon. They’re both committed to the cause – the cause being survival and accumulating numbers – but they have different ideas on how to get there. They differ in their ways to go about it, which we see in Episode 10. That’s where we see a significant change in tactics.
Q: Tension is brewing particularly because of those different ways in which Simon and Negan want to deal with these communities. What fuels Simon’s more violent approach?
A: This is a tipping point for him where it’s like, “Okay, we’ve tried these methods. These methods of yours are not working.” He’s getting fed up and wants to move this forward and the fastest way to get there is to literally go through it. The talking and the intimidation is not working, so he becomes a man of action, which is interesting because he seems to talk more and more. He continues to talk a lot, but he’s also now – unlike Negan – acting a lot.
Q: That begs the question: who’s really in charge here?
A: He certainly recognizes Negan to be the leader, but just because you’re the leader doesn’t mean you’re always running the show. It’s like politics. Regardless of the leaders speaking, there’s the behind-the-scenes workings. Simon recognizes Negan being the leader of it all, but it certainly doesn’t stop him from doing what he wants to do. He knows there will probably be repercussions, but he feels it’s the right path and that they share a common goal. He thinks, “If we do it my way and it doesn’t necessarily agree with yours, but we get the results, what’s so wrong with that?”
Q: What’s it like pushing back against Negan and playing with this dynamic with Jeffrey?
A: It’s interesting because I certainly feel like there were choices I made as an actor and I don’t honestly know how much it influenced them to think, “Oh? He’s a cheeky little bugger, huh?” There were certainly episodes early on where I think Simon possibly should have been a little more subservient, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to lower your eyes and bow your head. What if you just stand up?… I thought it would be fun to try and then we committed to it. Let’s go head-to-head, man! I’m not going to be scared of you, even if it means serious consequences. Of course, I’m speaking from Simon’s point of view. Not me! [Laughs]
A: Oh, man. We’re really stepping into some serious sh-t now. Going forward, there’s not going to be much turning back. This season has been framed as an all out war and I think that’s been Simon’s calling. Its all out war and he wants to win. In a sense, it’s like, “F—k it! Here we go! It’s time.” I was surprised and also excited to go to a different community and work with Pollyanna [McIntosh] and be a badass. That’s the greatest joy. It’s so well written and there’s so much talking. He just goes on and on, and he’s sort of holding court. It was a fun and interesting challenge to entertain the masses and intimidate them at the same time, and then clear them out. It was a fun journey to take. I got to screw around a lot. I liked the whole head-to-head with Jadis there.
Q: Does he worry about eventually not having accomplices or is he not even thinking that far?
A: I think he believes that others want action as well. He’s not the only one that wants things to move forward. He’s going about this thinking that others will follow along.
Q: Which do you think is worse: Simon disobeying Negan or lying about it afterwards?
A: Probably the lying. He might have been better off saying, “Listen, this is what I did because the results are going to be better.” It’s when you start lying that the layers add on. You become duplicitous and get yourself in more trouble. He’s digging a deeper hole. How’s he getting out of this one?!
Read an interview with Chandler Riggs, who plays Carl.
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