'The Walking Dead' Promotes 4 to Series Regular for Upcoming Season 7
By Jennifer Drysdale
Looks like Rick's going to have to watch his back!
The Walking Dead has promoted Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Negan), Tom Payne (Jesus), Austin Amelio (Dwight) and Xander Berkeley (Gregory) to series regular for the upcoming seventh season of the zombie drama.
The four newcomers will join the already loaded cast -- bringing this year's roster of series regulars to 20, up two from season six -- joining Andrew Lincoln (Rick), Norman Reedus (Daryl), Steven Yeun (Glenn), Lauren Cohan (Maggie), Chandler Riggs (Carl), Danai Gurira (Michonne), Melissa McBride (Carol), Michael Cudlitz (Abraham), Lennie James (Morgan), Seth Gilliam (Father Gabriel), Ross Marquand (Aaron), Austin Nichols (Spencer), Alanna Masterson (Tara), Christian Serratos (Rosita), Josh McDermitt (Eugene) and Sonequa Martin-Green (Sasha).
Of course, not all of the series regulars are guaranteed to make it through the season. Season six killed off series regulars Tovah Feldshuh (Deanna) and Alexandra Breckinridge (Jessie), along with recurring characters Denise (Merritt Wever) and Nicholas (Michael Traynor) -- before unloading a deadly cliffhanger in the season finale.
The cast will likely be down at least one regular when the victim of Negan's deadly baseball bat beating from the finale is finally revealed.
But for Morgan, his series regular status has been a long time coming. The actor told ET during an April conference call that while news of his casting was only confirmed in November, he’s been waiting to portray the iconic role for almost four years.
"I got approached [by fans] right when Negan was introduced in the 100th issue of the comic books," Morgan said. "Fans of the comic books gave me a copy of it and said, 'When they ever get to this guy, you should be this guy!' I was at Comic-Con, actually, and that was like in 2012 or 2013 or something, so I was very aware of the character."
And while fans of the show were left shocked by Negan's terrifying introduction during the season six finale, Morgan insisted he's not too different from Rick.
"People call him this psychotic guy, but I never looked at him like that. I think there's a lot of similarities between him and Rick. If we were following Negan's story from day one of The Walking Dead, the audience would be rooting for him. They have parallel storylines."
Audiences will have to be the judge of that come season seven, when we discover whose head was brutally bashed by the show's new terrifying antagonist. "When season seven kicks off, it's going to kick off directly from where we left it," Morgan promised. "You're going to see who was at the end of that bat and what happens from there."