'The Walking Dead': Steven Ogg on the 'delicious' words Simon says

Kimberly Potts
Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
Steven Ogg as Simon on The Walking Dead. (Photo: Gene Page/AMC)

To celebrate the Oct. 22 Season 8 premiere of  The Walking Dead — the series’ 100th episode — Yahoo TV will be posting a new TWD-related story every day through the season opener. 

No one in the cast of The Walking Dead delivers his lines more smoothly than Steven Ogg, the actor who portrays Negan’s second-in-command, Simon. We still don’t know a whole lot about the charming bad guy, though Ogg tells Yahoo TV the fact that Simon’s a bit of a bully tells us more than we might have realized.

Ogg also talks about how much he relishes the “Seussical” dialogue he gets to say as Simon and what his promotion to series regular might mean for his character in Season 8, and he warns that the upcoming season will include a return to Pee Pee Pants City.

Yahoo TV: Simon is this charming, playful, smart character we all kind of instantly fell in love with, and he happens to be the right-hand man of one of the biggest villains in the show’s history. Is it more fun to play?
Steven Ogg: You know, what makes him fun is that he is unpredictable. I mean, I like charming. I like that a lot. You know, kind of a guy that likes to have some fun and maybe he doesn’t take everything so seriously. I like charming. I would use charming, but I sort of see him more as this unpredictable, we’re not sure what he’s doing kind of guy. He’s a bit of a bully, that kind of guy, having fun teasing and taunting. I think it’s part of, probably, his way to survive in this world, as well. But I think anytime you can have that fun and enjoy that … try to have some fun with the character. Just enjoy it. Don’t take it too seriously, and enjoy screwing around with people. It’s fun!

Steven Ogg as Simon in The Walking Dead. (Photo: AMC)

How much of the character was laid out for you when you were cast, and how much have you gotten to develop his personality and his quirks along the way?
What’s interesting is, I’m a big one for the words. I mean, the words are what’s going to inform this character. Certainly early on, he was given some pretty interesting things to say. It’s a little sort of the way he metes out his words and says things … even with the tequila and the soppressata. Not the soppressata, the, you know, when he lists off the different drinks. He’s obviously not a dumb man. He’s obviously got the knowledge of these things. I certainly relish the opportunity to, you know, say these things and to twist these phrases and to have them make sense. That’s the challenge, if you will, and that’s part of the exciting aspect of Simon. I think it was there, and [showrunner] Scott [Gimple] and I discussed a little bit of what we thought Simon was. What he thought he was. That was about it. Then you just wait and see what’s written. And you kind of look forward to seeing what else he gets to do, you know?

You have had so many memorable moments already; pretty much every Simon scene, everything he says, is a gem. Do you have any favorites so far?
There’s been so many. Even from the get-go, you know, “Welcome to where you’re going.” I’ve been really fortunate to be given some just delicious lines. Unfortunately, I’m terrible at remembering. Sometimes people ask, you know, “Oh, what’s your favorite line?” Unless I just saw it or said it, I can’t remember, because there’s so many. And there’s certainly some much more delicious expressions coming up, where I’m just like, “Ah.” I read it, I’m like, “I get to say that? What? Come on! That’s ridiculous.” I love it. And then to try to make it make sense, also, that’s the fun part and the challenge as an actor.

So many of Simon’s great moments have been with Gregory, so far. Do you and Xander Berkeley talk about that, about this chemistry you’ve created between Simon and Gregory?
Well, Xander is just such an amazing, amazing person and such an amazing actor. Obviously, a character actor like that who’s been in so many amazing projects, to play against type and play this, what some people are calling kind of douchey character, is just the highest compliment, because he’s having people believe that this cowardly, douchey guy exists. I think that right there reflects his talents. Xander and I have been very fortunate to work together and play together. I just love playing with him, because we trust each other, so we’re like, “OK.” It’s either, “Step in the ring, motherf***er,” or it’s, “Let’s step on the dance floor.” And I think we both really enjoy connecting and trying to get under each other’s skin and through each other and around each other. Everyone on the show I’ve loved to play with in one form or another. That sounds horrible taken out of context [laughs]. But, you know, it’s such a talent pool, that show. Everyone is just so great and so wonderful and talented, that you just want to engage with everyone. You want a bit with everyone.

Xander Berkeley as Gregory and Steven Ogg as Simon in The Walking Dead. (Photo: AMC)

We don’t know a lot about Simon yet, about his backstory. Going into Season 8, might we find out more about his past? Or have you created a backstory for him, just to inform the choices you make for the character?
Well, I mean there’s always, you know, the dramaturge part of anything, be it theater or movie, TV — that’s the exciting part. A lot of actors, we love to get into the research. At the end of the day, I don’t know if it really means a hell of a lot, because, well, I’ll speak for myself. Your job is to communicate the words written. Again, if Simon’s speaking with a flourish, and if he’s speaking these sort of sometimes Suessical things and these interesting things, that sort of reflects who he is. I think if you remain true to that, it sort of informs the backstory more than the backstory informs how he says it.

You think it’s sort of his philosophy, then, that he’s decided, “I’m gonna do more than just survive. I’m gonna have a little fun in this world”?
I think it’s part of his survival mechanism, right. Everyone has a different way of dealing with it. I mean, the history, the backstory, and certainly with his interests, it’s simply because he’s a bit of a bully. And whenever you have a bully … I was chased across the playground as a kid. I was always bullied and teased, and it’s always interesting to me that with those type of people, you want to know, why are you such an a**hole? Why are you such a d**k? You know, are you like this at home? What’s the deal with you? That, I would love to explore. That would be very interesting. But, you know, we have to, the audience, has to wait and see what I’m given. It’s not like I’m all, “Alright, listen, Gimple, this is what I want.” You don’t work that way.

Ross Marquand as Aaron, left, Steven Ogg as Simon, and Andrew Lincoln as Rick on The Walking Dead. (Photo: AMC)

You are a series regular for Season 8 — congratulations. What will that mean for Simon? He probably has some big responsibilities coming up in what we know is going to be the big war between Rick’s group and the Saviors.
Well, that’s the thing. I mean, there are just so many characters, right, and there’s so much going on. And it is all about war. There’s gonna be a lot of s*** that needs to get done, a lot of s*** that’s going down. I think Pee Pee Pants City is only gonna get worse. We’re dealing now with everyone; it’s time to fight. It truly is fight time. Season 8 is gonna be different from Season 7 … s***’s hitting the fan. Ideally with that, that means there’s allocation of jobs and there’s a lot of outposts, and there’s a lot of people out there. There’s a lot of worlds out there. Someone’s got to be taking care of it because one person can’t. As Rick and his group fan out, I think the Saviors have to fan out, too. And everyone needs to do whatever is necessary to keep the upper hand, or to at least try to, you know, survive. Everyone’s just trying to survive, right?

The Walking Dead: The Complete Seventh Season DVD and Blu-ray are now available from Lionsgate and Anchor Bay Entertainment. The Walking Dead Season 8 premieres Oct. 22 at 9 p.m. on AMC.

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