Former Walking Dead star Steven Ogg, who played Negan’s (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) right-hand man Simon, says he was told “you’re not doing that” when he made unscripted changes to a scene pitting Negan against his lieutenant. In Season 8 episode “Worth,” the penultimate episode in the Survivor-Savior war, Negan returns to the Sanctuary alive after Simon and Dwight (Austin Amelio) abandoned him to die in battle with Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln). When Negan confronts Simon over his attempted coup of the Saviors, the intimidated lieutenant kneels and expects to be executed by Negan’s barbwire-wrapped baseball bat.
While blocking the scene, Ogg improvised a change to make his character more defiant: rather than turn away from Negan, Simon would look his would-be killer in the eyes. But director Michael Slovis vetoed the spontaneous change, Ogg told the Talk Dead to Me podcast:
“I thought I’m gonna face him. I’m gonna kneel, I’m gonna turn around, and I’m gonna put my arms behind my back, and I’m just going to stare at him. ‘Bash my head in, kill me, but you’re gonna look me in the eyes. Let’s do this,'” Ogg recalled. “So I made that choice, and then … they were like, ‘Interesting choice, Steven, but you’re not doing that. You’re not gonna be facing Negan eye-to-eye, turn around.'”
“So that’s what happens when you have a good production, you can try stuff and they can sometimes appease you,” he continued. “Sometimes they just say, ‘That’s not right.'”
Dwight, secretly acting as a mole for Rick Grimes and the militia assembled to overthrow Negan, later exposes Simon as a traitor. The episode culminates in a man-to-man fight to the death, which ends with Negan strangling Simon and displaying his zombified corpse on the Sanctuary fence.
After the episode aired in 2018, Ogg admitted both he and Morgan “wanted a different fight than what we ended up doing,” telling Red Carpet News TV the actors wanted a “dirty” street fight.
“We wanted it dirty. A kick in the nuts, a punch in the nuts, something bad. But you’re told you can and can’t do certain things,” Ogg said. “So that’s why the eye gouge right away, we at least said Simon gets [a disadvantage] — once you’ve been poked in the eye, it throws you off. So that was sort of the thing that we hoped sold it, is that he was disabled by the poke in the eye and it allowed Negan to get the upper hand.”
The finished scene “was a bit of a compromise with what they wanted and what Jeffrey and I wanted,” he said.
The Walking Dead Season 10 finale, “A Certain Doom,” premieres Sunday, October 4 on AMC. For all things TWD, follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter.
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