If final month’s abrupt cancellation of cable’s hottest drama, “The Strolling Lifeless,” caught you off guard, you’re not alone. It additionally stunned the present’s star.
“We had simply talked about extending my contract for a pair extra years, in order that’s the way it was left just a few months in the past,” says Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who performs fan-favorite Negan on the present.
Morgan says the choice to shut up store on the zombie drama got here from a mix of things, with “COVID and this [upcoming] supersized season being the 2 main issues.”
Though the present’s Season 10 “finale” (which was delayed six months because of the pandemic), lastly aired final week, community AMC introduced — in a little bit of scheduling emblematic of those chaotic instances — that six extra episodes of Season 10 will air in early 2021. Then, the ultimate Season 11 will run for 24 episodes over two years.
When filming on the sequence wraps subsequent yr, Morgan, 54, will probably be a free agent for the primary time in years. He’s now left to sift by means of the chances about what comes subsequent.
However first issues first: Rooster coops must be cleaned, alpaca poop must be scooped and a moody emu needs to be fed.
Because the coronavirus hit, Morgan has been locked down on his 100-acre farm in Rhinebeck, New York, with his wife, “One Tree Hill” actor Hilarie Burton, and their two children, a 10-year-old boy named Gus and a 2-year-old lady named George.
“The farm is not any joke. It’s work,” he says. “I’m in control of all of the animals, and Hilarie is in control of the gardening.”
Morgan fell in love with the Hudson Valley space 10 years in the past, whereas filming a film in Kerhonkson. He and Burton, who have been dwelling in LA on the time, quickly purchased a log cabin outdoors Rhinebeck. They later upgraded to the farm they name “Mischief.” (It’s named after a 19th-century animal tombstone they found on the property.) They’ve since unloaded their LA residence and moved to Mischief completely.
“I’m not good at sitting on my ass. My spouse is identical approach,” Morgan says. “LA was not conducive for us. There’s all the time one thing to do right here. There’s no sitting round.”
Farming is in Morgan’s blood. He grew up in Seattle, however his grandmother owned a pig farm the place he used to work each summer time. Nowadays, the actor enjoys chopping firewood and tending to his menagerie of pet animals, usually with “100 % Daddy’s lady” George in tow. Rhinebeck, he says, has change into “our city.”
“It’s the primary time I’ve felt at residence in my whole grownup life,” the actor says. “It’s a mix of the folks and the surroundings. It’s a distinct vibe from my 20 years in LA after I didn’t even know my neighbors.”
He and his wife co-own (together with Paul Rudd and his spouse, Julie Yaeger) Samuel’s Candy Store, a quaint sweet retailer on Rhinebeck’s predominant strip. The shop’s former proprietor, Ira Gutner, was the primary individual Morgan met on the town. When Gutner died in 2014, Morgan and his pals determined to purchase the shop to maintain it from closing.
“I don’t get free sweet, however I get free espresso. That’s the massive perk,” the actor jokes.
Morgan has all the time been industrious. As a younger man, he bought work and labored as an additional for movies capturing in Seattle. Within the early 1990s, he moved to LA to pursue appearing full time.
His first audition was for the position of Blackie Parrish on “Normal Hospital.” (As an alternative, a then-unknown John Stamos landed the gig, launching his profession.) Morgan subsequent auditioned for a low-budget Roger Corman flick known as “Uncaged.” He was forged as a pimp.
“I had simply moved to LA, and I used to be driving down Hollywood Boulevard with a digital camera mounted on a convertible Cadillac, and I assumed, ‘Oh, my God! I’ve made it!’ ” he recollects.
However true success would take one other 15 years. All through the ’90s and early 2000s, Morgan was forged in straight-to-DVD films and in one-off roles on TV reveals — simply sufficient to eek out a dwelling, however barely.
“That’s a very long time and plenty of conversations had with household and pals, like, ‘What are you doing along with your life?’” he remembers. “I used to be dwelling in Hollywood in my mid-40s, and I had a roommate, and it was like, what the f – – okay?”
Then, inside two weeks in 2005, all of it got here collectively. Morgan landed juicy roles on “Weeds,” “Supernatural” and, maybe most notably, “Gray’s Anatomy.”
Since then, he’s been a dependable presence on TV and film screens. However now, as the tip of his most up-to-date job is in sight, the nervousness most each actor suffers comes creeping in once more.
“I hear ‘The Strolling Lifeless’ goes to finish, and it’s like, will I ever work once more, you realize?” Morgan says. “I all the time suppose [an acting career] goes to go away as a result of it’s so arduous to get.”
Nonetheless, it appears unlikely that work will dry up for the favored star. He’s exploring a Negan spinoff, that includes the onetime baseball bat-wielding villain who has of late mellowed.
“I feel it’s not over for the story of Negan,” Morgan says. “There have been transient conversations. Stars and planets have to align, however I’m considering seeing the place this character goes and speaking about one thing, whether or not or not it’s a present or a film.”
One other long-rumored challenge would contain Morgan strapping on Batman’s cape and cowl. In 2016, the actor performed Bruce Wayne’s father, Thomas, in “Batman v Superman: Daybreak of Justice.” And in an alternate universe explored within the comedian books, Thomas turns into Batman after his younger son is killed.
Morgan says that director Zack Snyder first floated the thought when the 2 have been filming 2009’s comic-book adaptation “Watchmen,” during which Morgan performed the superhero Comic.
“Then, when [Snyder] known as with the position of Thomas Wayne, he was like, ‘Look, it’s Thomas Wayne. We’ve seen him earlier than, however there’s extra, Jeff, and we’ll dive in in some unspecified time in the future. It’s a down-the-line factor,’” Morgan recollects. “I mentioned, ‘OK, yeah, I’ll go to Chicago for one night time of filming and freeze my ass off, as a result of I do know, in a pair years, we’re going to be speaking once more about one thing completely completely different.’ Then it by no means got here to be.”
Snyder and almost all of the executives in control of DC’s movie universe have since moved on, and Morgan says it’s unclear if any of Snyder’s down-the-line plans will ever come to fruition.
Within the meantime, Morgan, who has appeared in different DC movies, together with 2010’s “The Losers,” says he’d like to defect to Marvel.
“Marvel is so on it proper now, in the event that they known as with something, I’d say, ‘That’s nice.’”
Late final month, Morgan returned to work for the primary time for the reason that pandemic struck, heading to Boston to complete a horror film known as “Shrine.”
Then it’s again to work on “The Strolling Lifeless,” which he says has been almost a year-round job since he began in 2016. Moreover staying employed, Morgan says his objective is to get higher as an actor, which additionally drives him to be a greater individual.
“I’ll by no means have it discovered in entrance of a digital camera, and I’ll by no means have it discovered in entrance of my spouse and children,” he says. “However you gotta maintain working at it.”
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Style Editor: Serena French; Stylist: Anahita Moussavian; Manufacturing Assistants: Annie Delano, Matthew Conde, Claire Diehl