After months of speculation and a few casting rumors, The Hollywood Reporter has learned that Jeffrey Dean Morgan has landed the role of the villainous Negan on "The Walking Dead." According to THR's unnamed sources, Morgan will make his first appearance on the show during the midseason finale. The episode will be directed by Greg Nicotero.
Debuting in the landmark 100th issue of Image Comics' "The Walking Dead," Negan made a big entrance into the mythos by taking the life of one (up until that point) long-lasting survivor and member of Rick's crew. In addition to being the leader of the Saviors, Negan is a foul-mouthed and charismatic villain who carries a barbwire-laced bat named Lucille.
THR notes that the casting process for Negan was a long one and that the character was referred to as "Orin," most likely to keep his introduction under wraps. Morgan's character is expected to be around for the long haul, much like his comic book counterpart; he'll recur in season six before becoming a regular in 2016's seventh season. Prior to the casting, "Deadwood" actor Garret Dillahunt campaigned for the role on social media. In addition to Dillahunt, THR notes that Timothy Olyphant and Matt Dillon were also considered for the role at one point.
This is not Morgan's first foray into the comic book world. He played the Comedian in Zack Snyder's 2009 adaptation of "The Watchmen." He will also play Thomas Wayne in "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" and had a recurring role on the TV series "Supernatural."
"The Walking Dead" airs on Sundays on AMC.