In this season of The Walking Dead, we were bound to learn a lot about Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s character, Negan. When he was first introduced on the show, he was shrouded in mystery. For a while, he didn’t have a face. The character was just a name said by his many followers, all of them claiming to be Negan themselves. There was a lot of power in that name. Eventually, Jeffrey Dean Morgan made the villain come alive without him having much of a backstory. He had his bat, Lucille, and slowly, we were introduced to the ways in which he ruled his people. Then, of course, his actions spoke loud and clear as to who he was. He became one of the most frightening villains of all time, and he did it all without ever having a last name.
But now, we’re learning more about him. He’s becoming more human than ever. And so, in a subtle move in the background, the season ten finale revealed all. In the episode Here’s Negan, we see his last name on the mailbox outside the home he shared with his wife, Lucille, 12 years prior. We see that same name written on a trophy in his basement. Negan Smith.
After all these years, why Smith? Why Negan Smith? Why hide it in the background for only dedicated fans to notice? Apparently, it’s all an in-joke for the most dedicated of fans, so the subtle reveal is most fitting.
The Walking Dead is based on a comic series of the same name by Robert Kirkman. And apparently, the writer isn’t a fan of giving his characters last names. He finds them to be boring and he thinks that the characters are generally more interesting without a surname. He revealed this when he was doing an appearance in 2018 on the Walker Stalker Cruise with Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Norman Reedus. The writer confirmed that Negan was a first name, and revealed that the character was once named “Nagus”, until he performed an online search and discovered that was a name for a Ferengi character in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
On the panel, actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan chimed in and said that his character, “Doesn’t have a last name. It’s like Madonna, Cher, and Negan.” Eventually though, Robert Kirkman threw out a last name for Negan just as an idea. Negan Smith, he said. “There we go. Is that a good one?”.
Now, perhaps referencing that very comment for the most die-hard of fans, The Walking Dead has given Negan a more thorough backstory, complete with a surname from the world before the zombies, where things like last name’s mattered. There’s something fun about giving the terrifying villain a perfectly everyday name like Smith. The writers of The Matrix certainly liked it. Agent Smith was the villain for that series, and there was an everyman touch to the use of the common surname.
Negan. He was once just a name, then he got a face, and now he has a backstory and a surname. This is an impressive slow reveal of details for a character audiences know so well.