"I wanted to be sure he didn't just become a cartoon buddy," Morrissey says.
Meanwhile, he began mastering the obligatory Southern accent.
Describing his happy, working-class childhood in Liverpool, England — "it was a tough environment, but tough in the right way" — Morrissey speaks in the singsongy lilt reminiscent of the Liverpudlian lads who formed the world's greatest rock band (and might pronounce "band" something like "bah-yind.")
He says he worked with the same accent coach assigned to series star Andrew Lincoln (who plays Rick Grimes), a fellow Brit. And he trained hard. "My children got very bored with me reading them bedtime stories in a Georgia accent," he says with a laugh.
The Woodbury scenes were shot in the town of Senoia, Ga., 40 miles south of Atlanta. Months of filming took Morrissey away from his family — sons 17 and 8 years old, and a daughter, 15, as well as his wife, novelist Esther Freud (who happens to be the great-granddaughter of Sigmund Freud).
"The people who live there are great," says Morrissey, "because we do disrupt their lives." Shooting for the season wrapped in November, "and I had a lovely time there."
But will The Governor be back to rule over the ultimate gated community? Not surprisingly, Morrissey is cagey when replying to that question: "Contractually, I'm there for five years. But that's not to say that I don't die at the end of this season, Or whenever."
Whether or not he's back on "The Walking Dead," Morrissey means to keep taking risks with his roles.
"I want to go into a job feeling a bit of frisson, thinking things MAY not work," he explains before offering "Blackpool" as a prime example.
Retitled "Viva Blackpool" for its U.S. telecast in 2005, this was a quirky British miniseries in which he costarred with David Tennant, whose credits include The Doctor in "Dr. Who." Morrissey played the thuggish owner of an arcade in the seaside town of Blackpool, England, who becomes swallowed up in a murder probe.
What truly set apart the series was the penchant of its characters for bursting into a song-and-dance number at the drop of a hat. Think Tony Soprano channeling Elvis. Clearly, THIS was risky for all concerned!
"I remember halfway through the shoot they showed us a bit of the dailies," says Morrissey, laughing at the memory. "Then me and David Tennant walked away and got in the lift and the doors closed. And we went, 'We're NEVER gonna work again!'"
As it happened, "Blackpool" charmed viewers and won awards. And its stars did work again.
Frazier Moore is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. He can be reached at fmoore(at)ap.org and at http://www.twitter.com/tvfrazier
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