While audiences in America likely know David Morrissey from his three seasons as The Governor on The Walking Dead, Morrissey has had a tremendous career for over 40 years in his native England. But since his breakthrough role on the AMC zombie drama, Morrissey has been relatively quiet.
Let’s take a look at what David Morrissey has been up to since The Walking Dead and why you may not have seen him since.
HIS EARLY BEGINNINGS IN ENGLAND
Born in Kensington, an inner-city area in Liverpool, England, David Morrissey began acting at an early age. He was keenly interested in television and film and grabbed his first role in Primary school when a teacher encouraged him to audition for the school play, where he played the part of Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz. Unfortunately for Morrissey, his secondary school didn’t have any drama classes, so he was unable to perform there, but he did join the Everyman Youth Theater. Even though he had been on stage as a child, Morrissey was still quite shy.
David Morrissey got his first acting gig on the British mini-series One Summer. After his time on One Summer, Morrissey decided to further his acting studies by going to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, despite his friends at Everyman trying hard to convince him not to join the Royal Academy. He was immediately homesick and he felt the school was turning him into a bland actor. He considered dropping out but was convinced to continue his studies, eventually graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
During the years after his graduation, Morrissey took to the stage, performing in shows like Le Cid, Twelfth Night, King John, and Peer Gynt. David Morrissey returned to film and TV after two years on the stage. He was first seen in the TV movie Cause célèbre, follwed by Drowning by Numbers, and The Widowmaker, where he played a serial killer. David then played Little John in the 1991 feature Robin Hood. Unfortunately, the movie didn’t gain a lot of publicity, as it came out the same year that Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.
David Morrissey moved on to a string of British series such as Screenplay, Screen One, Framed, Between the Lines, The Knock, and Finney. He was continuing to build a name for himself with even more series, like Out of the Blue, Holding On, Our Mutual Friend, and Pure Wickedness. During this time, Morrissey also found time for features. He was seen in Being Human, Devil’s Advocate, The Commissioner, Hilary and Jackie and The Suicide Club.
Morrissey’s career continued this same line. He was in Born Romantic, the Nicolas Cage drama Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Stoned, and Derailed while also appearing in the TV series State of Play and Blackpool. Despite all of David Morrissey’s great work, his career was about to hit two major bombs.
BASIC INSTINCT 2 AND THE REAPING
It looked like a good choice. The original Basic Instinct was a highly sexual thriller that made Sharon Stone a household fantasy. How could David Morrissey say no to its sequel? He couldn’t, as he told Metro. “I got a call from my agent asking if I’d be interested in going for Basic Instinct 2. I’d been a big fan of the original and still am – I saw it again before I started filming. I thought the script was cracking and it was a great character.”
After reading the script, David Morrissey knew what he had to do next. The gym. “I’m no slouch but if you’re going to show your arse to people, you have to get it right. It’s difficult, regardless of whether you’ve got your clothes on or not, when you see yourself for the first time on a cinema screen. You think: ‘Do I really look like that?’” He was, of course, having to deal with comparing himself to the likes of Sharon Stone’s body.
As for Miss Stone herself, they got along famously. “Very much so, from the minute we met. I went to LA, they booked an hour for a screen test and I was in there for two hours. For an hour and a half of that, we just laughed our socks off and that continued on set. We got on really well and that comes across in the film.” Too bad the movie sucked hard. It was a bomb right out of the gate, something that could sink any actor, but David Morrissey moved on. To another bomb.
He took the role in The Reaping because of his fondness for Hilary Swank. The movie also starred Idris Elba and tells the story of a former Christian Missionary (Swank), who now debunks religious phenomena, who is called on to investigate a small town where it looks like it’s suffering from the 10 biblical plagues. Another bomb. But still moving on.
DAVID MORRISSEY ON THE WALKING DEAD
David Morrissey’s career kept moving forward. He had built up enough goodwill with his meticulous preparation and study for any role he accepted along with his solid performances throughout his career. He was not dissuaded by the failures of Basic Instinct 2 or The Reaping in the least. For the next five years, it was much of the same. The Water Horse, Children in Need, Doctor Who, The Other Boleyn Girl, Blitz, MacBeth, Earthbound, the roles kept coming. So did The Walking Dead and his controversial role as The Governor.
David Morrissey grabbed his role as Phillip Blake, The Governor, in the series third season. He could be charming, he could be charismatic, but he also could be sadistic, murderous, and a power-hungry sociopath. He has no qualms in taking out anyone who defies his authority. He is an immediate villain and enemy of Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and meets a very satisfying (for viewers, anyway) ending.
His ending came after he brutally ended the life of one of The Walking Dead’s most beloved characters, Hershel (Scott Wilson) by decapitation. David Morrissey knew that scene would be tough for fans, “There’s a double thing there. The Governor killing Hershel, which is horrific, he does it to show the people in prison the nihilistic man he is and his sense of destruction. He knows Hershel is a good man and embodies everything good about the prison and that community, and he kills their most beloved member and that’s terrible,” he told The Hollywood Reporter.
Not only was he taking out Hershel, but by doing so ended Wilson’s time on the show. “Then there’s the other thing in being the man who kills Scott Wilson. Bringing his involvement with the show was very hard, and it was a very emotional day. The way the filming happened, that happened on one day, and everyone came to the set and was there for Scott. It was amazing. Scott went home and three or four days later, it was time for my death, and Scott came back to the set to say goodbye to me. After my death, Scott and I spent the day together and played pool and had a few drinks. It’s always very upsetting when someone you love and are friends with goes, and it was very traumatic for all of us.”
David Morrissey’s end on The Walking Dead would come shortly after being turned into a zombie. his Governor character would then have his brains scrambled by the one person who actually cared for him: Lilly (Audrey Marie Anderson).
David Morrissey did enjoy his “Death Dinner.” After every main character’s death, The Walking Dead cast gathers for one last dinner together to properly say good-bye to the newly deceased co-worker. “Scott [Wilson] and I had a dinner together. We went out with other members of the cast.” He then went on, “It was great, everyone came along and it was very emotional. Like in any workplace, when you spend a lot of time with people, it’s important to say goodbye and say how much you’ve enjoyed working with them and wish them luck. It’s a good thing to do; it’s the respect you have for your co-workers and that’s important in any workplace.”
DAVID MORRISSEY NOW
In 2006 David Morrissey married his long-time girlfriend Esther Freud. Freud is a novelist who has such books as Hideous Kinky and Love Falls. They have three children together, a daughter and two sons. The five of them live together in England splitting time between North London and Soffolk.
While his family keeps him busy, David Morrissey didn’t pause a moment after his zombified death in The Walking Dead. He went back to work by appearing in Extant, The Missing, The City and the City, Good Omens, Britannia, and The Singapore Grip.
He has also spent time behind the camera directing episodes of various TV series, giving him more things to work on if acting begins to slow down, which it does not seem to be doing. His next role will be in the movie Dampyr, based on the comic of the same name.