Digital Spy caught up with Morrissey to get his take on The Governor and found out why the English actor avoided the Walking Dead comics and how it feels to be embodying such a fan-favourite...
When you were cast in The Walking Dead, did you read the comics as research?
"No, I knew the show, I came to the show as a fan. I knew the show because I'd known Andy Lincoln for a long time, so when it aired in the UK I watched it because of him, and also in the pilot was a great friend of mine, Lennie James. I thought the pilot was great and from the pilot on I was hooked really, I thought it was a great show.
"I knew it came from a comic, but I didn't look at it. It isn't my genre really. So when I was asked to go in and meet for this character, I sort of knew the show but I didn't know the character or anything about it, as I haven't looked at the comics.
"When they offered me the role, they said, 'Look at the comics,' but what Robert Kirkman asked me to do was read his novel, which is called 'Rise of the Governor', and before anything else I read that. I loved that - I thought that was a great piece of work and it gave me a lot to work with.
"I avoided the comics for a bit actually. I obviously saw the look of the Governor from the comic, but the first script came in and I liked what they were doing. Then I read the comic and it was very different, the thing about the Governor in the comic is that he's a fully-formed person and what we do with him in the TV series is... he's not as fully formed when he arrives and then we work on him from then on."
How would you describe your take on the Governor and the way you're playing the part?
"The thing I would say is... there is a lot of wait-and-see for me when talking about it, because there's a lot of anticipation surrounding this character. I would say that a lot of my interpretation around his back-story and his psyche and his take on this world comes from the book 'The Rise of the Governor' - that was my starting point really."
Is there an added pressure in playing a character that's such a fan favourite?
"I guess so, but I feel pressure with any character I play whether there is anticipation about it or not. I've done interpretive parts before, in Dickens, with 'Our Mutual Friend', I played Bradley Headstone and people have great ideas about him. And there was South Riding and Red Riding in fact as well - there's a series of books that people have great ideas about. Even characters that aren't from any adaptations, I feel great pressure and the Governor is no different - I always put pressure on myself."
What's your experience been like with Walking Dead fans? I know you were at Comic-Con in San Diego earlier this year...
"That was a blast, I loved it, it was great. The fans, they are wonderful. The fans I met at Comic-Con, the letters I've received, the fans who've stopped me on the street, there is one common denominator - their passion and love for the show, which is great. That for me is a warm bath at the moment, that I've come into this show that people have real passion about.
"The other thing is that when I've arrived, it's already a successful show and that makes me nervous because they have put the benchmark high and one wants to come up to that. In my acting career, I've never really walked onto a set with a cast and crew so wonderful and so committed.
"It reminds me very much of Doctor Who, which I had the same experience on walking onto a set of a show that is well-loved and well-received, but is also brilliantly run. The same is true on The Walking Dead - that everybody from the leading actor Andy Lincoln right through to the crew want to be here and want to do the best they can - it's a really loved show. I love every minute of being here, it's great to work on this show."
You've mentioned Andrew Lincoln a few times - what is it like working with him as an old friend? It looks like we're going to see some tense confrontations between Rick and the Governor.
"The thing about Andy is he is a wonderful actor and a professional. He leads the show from the front. It's like David Tennant again - Andy is the first man on set; he is totally committed, there is no day off for him, he is absolutely in this show 100%. That's the benchmark he sets and coming at it myself, you have to be involved in that. There is no shying away from his commitment. He is great to work with; he is such a wonderful actor. I think what he brings is so many complex levels... it's wonderful to work with. The whole cast are wonderful to work with."
When you're playing someone who is essentially a bad guy, are you worried about him seeming one-dimensional?
"I think that's a concern about any character whether they are good, bad or whatever. You want to bring layers to any character that you play. Particularly in a series; we're doing 16 episodes here, so you have to find different notes for him.
"For me particularly I would be bored stiff if there were just one note I had to play. The writers are aware of that as well and they're really bringing in different levels to the character. I'm really happy with the material I'm being given and I certainly don't feel bored by the challenges they are laying at me. Hopefully he will be very complex."
One of the things we know about season three is that the prison plays a key role. What was it like filming on that set?
"It's a great set; I've worked with that designer before... it's a man called Grace Walker who did the Mad Max films, an Australian guy. I did a film called The Reaping with him down in Louisiana. He's an amazing designer - a lot of the time as an actor what you're doing is filling in the parts that [the production crew] can't do, but there's none of that with Grace. He really covers all the angles and it means we can do the long-running shots because his set has no gaps in it. He's a wonderful, wonderful designer."
Zombies and gore are obviously big parts of the show. How are you at dealing with on-screen violence?
"Yeah, there's a lot of it and one thing I love about this show is it treats its subject matter very seriously. I think that it's a show about survival and humanity and what human beings will put themselves through in order to survive. I think the danger has to feel very real to pull that off and on this show, the danger is very real. I think that's what makes it so brilliant."
The Walking Dead season three begins on FX in the UK on Friday, October 19 at 10pm. In the US, the series returns on October 14 on AMC.