Negan made quite an impression on The Walking Dead. Or better said, Jeffrey Dean Morgan made quite an impression playing the best villain in the series so far. But who is Negan? Why did he become a ruthless, funny, and cerebral leader in the zombie-ridden world?

Well, we have an idea of who Negan is. He’s basically a natural evolution of Rick. Rick is Negan, and Negan is Rick. Thankfully, Rick met a Negan before he became one. Confused? I’ll explain.

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If Rick is the hero we hate to love, considering all the questionable decisions over the years made in the name of survival, then Negan is the hero we’re going to love to hate.

Like Rick, Negan was sort of a role model, albeit on a different scale. Negan was a high school sports teacher, who wanted to be cool. Rick, on the other hand, was a police officer who tried to do his job as best he could — that’s probably what’s kept him from becoming Negan so far.

Like Rick, Negan started his zombie apocalypse in a hospital, at the side of his wife Lucille who was dying of cancer. Rick, meanwhile, was recovering from a wound.

Like Rick, he tried to help people at first, once it became clear how the world was changing. But Negan turned into a dictator a lot faster. Probably not having a police uniform on him meant he didn’t inspire the same confidence Rick did. Not to mention that Negan’s twisted humor and cursing style probably didn’t help either.

“After the apocalypse hits and the zombies start taking over the world, you see Negan trying to help people,” Morgan told Entertainment Weekly. “And no one listens to him, and they get killed, and so finally he gets to the point that he becomes a little bit of a dictator. Negan’s always a foul-mouthed son of a bitch, so he always is colorful with his language, but I think you see him kind of make a shift, because he starts off really trying to help people and save people, and when they don’t listen to him, and they’re constantly getting killed, he becomes a little bit more brutal in his tactics, I guess.”

Rick did not become a dictator per se, and he does listen to the group. But not if the group is wrong. Didn’t Rick do exactly that? Try to help people? Even if that meant taking the tough, cruel decisions others wouldn’t? Didn’t Rick kill people to make sure that his group would be safe? Didn’t he take over Alexandria, and marched against the Governor and, as of late, Negan?

People follow, respect, and probably fear Rick to a certain extent, knowing what he’s capable of doing. That goes double for Negan, whose moral compass is a lot more twisted.

Morgan explained to EW that the Saviors are practically following him out of fear. There’s loyalty in there too, but they’re mostly afraid.

“I’ve got a couple guys that are very loyal to me, but a lot of it is fear-based. A lot of them are with Negan because they know what will happen if they are not with Negan,” Morgan said. “There are some loyal followers, obviously, and I’m hoping we get more into kind of that relationship with his Saviors at some point because right now we haven’t delved that deep into it. You see touches of it kind of sprinkled throughout.”

Ultimately, “some follow him because they know he’s going to keep them alive,” Morgan said. But then again, that’s why people follow Rick as well, with Alexandria being the latest example of that.

The difference, for the time being, is that Rick has his ups and downs. He’s ruthless, but he’s also riddled with guilt, and he can easily crack down after sustained pressure. He just cracked again. Or Negan forced him to.

This is all related to the way Negan behaved before the apocalypse. He may have been a high school teacher, but he was sort of a bully as well. “I think he was probably a little bit of an a–hole and a little bit of a bully,” Morgan explained. “I don’t think this all just came about after the apocalypse. It would be fun to do a prequel to who Negan was.”

“I think Negan’s always been the dick you went to high school with,” he told EW. “But he also has a razor sharp sense of humor, which goes hand-in-hand with this sort of bullying he does — it’s all with a sharp wit. Here’s the thing with Negan: He’s going to make you laugh. Even through the worst of it, you will find yourself smiling against your will. And I think that’s exactly how he was as a kid and through high school and stuff. That’s how we’re playing him, anyway. That’s how I’m going at it. He didn’t turn into this in one day. He’s been working at it for a while.”

Negan is probably one of the types of leaders that world needs right now, even if only to keep Rick in check and point him in in the right direction.

With all that in mind, the Negan vs. Rick conflict is only getting started, and we’re probably in for a wild ride.

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