Most movies and television shows casting decisions go through multiple rounds of auditions. Every show or film wants to know they have the right person for the part. However, there are also times when people are cast and they never make it to the screen. They have to break the commitment due to other commitments made previously. Then there are incidents like Back to the Future where the actor is replaced. Regardless, situations arise that make original choices not happen. Although most of us cannot imagine anyone else playing Negan outside of Jeffrey Dean Morgan for five minutes that happened. Who almost got cast one of the most infamous villains on The Walking Dead? None other than Matthew Lillard!
During the Scream panel Saturday afternoon at Walker Stalker Con Atlanta, Lillard asked the audience, “Did you know for less than five minutes I was cast as Negan?” Needless to say, the majority of the audience did not know this, including me. He went onto explain:
“So I got a call. They said they want you to audition for The Walking Dead. It’s a big part. I’m like okay cool. I didn’t watch the show, sorry. So I went in to audition and they loved it. They were like wow they really loved it you’re in the running for this part. I’m like oh that’s great. It usually means it’s going to somebody else.”
Lillard did not end there with his explanation of the audition process for The Walking Dead.
“And they were like hey they want you to come back and do it again. They don’t want you to be as funny, they want you to be a little more dramatic. I was like okay. So I went back in and did it again. And they were in Atlanta and I was working and doing the audition in LA. So they were like it’s between you and another guy and they want you to come in one more time. And they want you to come in one more time and they want to see if you can do both of them at the same time. Funny and dramatic.”
Matthew Lillard admits his audition was successful, “I went in and I must have done it in that room working with the casting directors they really wanted me to get it. And they’re like they’ve offered it to somebody bigger than you, but the guy isn’t responding so you’re in the running.” As we know, most roles in the industry come down to a couple of actors. Decisions are ultimately made about who is cast in each respective film and television show. In this case, Lillard admits, “It comes down to me and this guy and I get the call that I don’t get the part.”
However, the story does not end there. “So like a year later I was in Twin Peaks and I was at Comic-Con in San Diego and the show-runner from The Walking Dead walked up. He said dude I can’t tell you how great you were, we’re gonna work together.” Admittedly every time he sees a Negan shirt there’s some faux animosity. He also jokingly explained and added, “They called his agent and said we’re moving on and he turned around and took the part. Every time I see that G– — Negan shirt I just want to say $*#& you! So I want you to know if you walk by him spit on him.”
As the moderator reminded the audience there is plenty of The Walking Dead universe that still needs to be covered. Hopefully one day we will get to see Matthew Lillard in a role on The Walking Dead. And while he did a mean impression of Zombie Shaggy in season twelve, I along with other fans hope we see more of him than that in the future.