Do you like to dress up and play make believe? Have you always wanted to be someone else, even for a day? What if, out of the blue, you were given the opportunity to do that? Would you do it? A man calling himself ‘Nearly Negan’, has done just that!
Gene Russell, has come out of nowhere, to become a Negan cosplayer. Well I guess I shouldn’t say nowhere, he lives in Georgia. We all know what Georgia is famous for, don’t we? Considering our most favorite series, The Walking Dead, is filmed there, this cosplayer didn’t have far to go.
Gene is an insurance claims man in real life, and puts on the Negan suit in his spare time. And he fills it out nicely! Looking very much like Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Gene is a dead ringer for Negan. His voice and mannerisms are a plus too! While doing this interview, I could really imagine myself talking to JDM! He has only been doing cosplay for a short time, but he is increasing in demand. I first found out about Nearly Negan from a friend who is in many Walking Dead groups on Facebook. When I checked out his Facebook page, I was in awe! I contacted him and he agreed to an interview with me!
1. Tell us a little about yourself, age, where from, what do you do for work?
Well, my name is Gene Russell I am 46 yrs old and I was born in Pasadena, Tx. originally but grew up in Atlanta, GA. My Dad moved us up here when I was 9-10 yrs. old so consider myself more of a Georgia boy than anything else. My parents and I still live close to each other. I am an insurance claims adjuster in real life but I work for the public against their insurance companies (that is a whole story in of itself) but basically I fight the man.
2. How long have you been cosplaying Negan, and how did you get started?
Not long at all, just a few months. The first time I ever put the jacket on was at Walker Stalker, New Jersey and I had not even seen an episode of TWD yet. My friend Michelle Molinari; Zombie Charm School, and her business partner Randy (the Daryl Dude) have been doing cosplay and offering high volume Walking Dead style Makeup at conventions for a couple of years at conventions .. Michelle and I were good friends when we both lived in Crystal Beach , Tx ( we met about 10 years ago) and after Hurricane Ike and afterward nobody had a place to live I went home to Atlanta and Michelle ended up in Louisiana and we lost contact. We reconnected a few years ago. Randy and Michelle were doing Stalker in Atlanta (October 2015) and I went down to say hey to them. I was blown away by all of the fans and craziness. The Daryl Dude could not move 10 ft without being mobbed! and I asked Michelle how I could get in on it because it looked like fun. She told me that I needed to sort of look somewhat like a character at least and that there wasn’t much she could do. April, 2016, Negan walks out of an RV on the TWD and July2016 I am in New Jersey at Walker Stalker and here we are! I honestly had never seen my first episode and had never heard of cosplay much less understood anything about how all of this works. Still don’t really, but it has been really cool.
3. Had you ever heard of The Walking Dead or watched it? Have you read the comics?
Nope. I knew it was filmed in Senoia, Ga because my work took me there occasionally. I honestly never watched the show, I rarely watch TV that much anyway so nothing against it. I am almost caught up on it now. I really like it. Comics have never been my thing either but just picked up a copy of the one where Negan first appears. I am stoked to start reading them though, they look fun.
4 Have you attended any Cons or Walker Stalkers yet? Do you plan to do more?
Jersey has been the only one but we will be in Atlanta and Philadelphia for sure and hoping to getting into the other Walker Stalker events.
5. Have you met any of the cast yet? Have you met the other Cosplayers?
I have met some of the cast but very brief encounters. I have met some fantastic cosplayers! Chris Twellman ‘ (Abraham) and Senoia Rick, are especially great. Chris is a Wildman! I love that guy and of course, The Daryl Dude (Randy). Randy has become a great friend and brother, he really shows me the way with all of this.
6. What do you plan to do with your new found fame?
Well I don’t know I would describe this as fame quite yet. I am just having a great time and love working with Zombie Charm School and Daryl Dude. I am really just a bit player for those guys and they are kind to let me be part of it all. So, I don’t have grandiose ideas about all it, just to have fun and celebrate the show.
7. Do you cos play for hire?
I do, however everything I have done has been with ZCS and Daryl Dude. I have had some solo inquires but nothing definitive yet. Truth be told I prefer to roll with my friends at if possible.
8. Tell us any funny things that have happened to you since becoming Negan.
Hmmmmm, heh, heh. I met Chris Twellman up in Jersey briefly and when we reconnected down in Senoia for a benefit and we were both in costume. He ran up to me and threw me over his shoulder and ran through Senoia with Nearly Negan over the top of him. The crowd exploded! Spoiler Alert! He is a riot and really great guy.
9. Have woman been receptive to you as Negan?
Oh yes. Some seem to like it, some more than others. Some seem to think that I sit around all day dressed as Nearly Negan and enjoy FB messaging! As fun as that would be, it has become increasingly difficult to answer every single message I get, but I try to respond to everyone.
10. How have the fans been treating you?
Incredible and really nice I see that people are very connected to the show and the characters emotionally. Some are very concerned about what Negan may do to their favorite character and voice their concerns to me! I love it and they know that I have nothing to do with any of it but we have a lot fun discussing Negan kill theories. The fans have been really nice to me.
11. Do you plan on doing this long term?
I will do it as long as it is fun and desired. I do have a career outside of this that I am passionate about but this is a ride and my life is about enjoying the ride so we will see how it goes.
12. What do your family or friends thing of this?
Hmmm, I think they stopped wondering if I will ever grow up! They are cool with it. They are used to me having somewhat of a different life at this point
13. Do you plan on doing any charity functions? Which ones, and where?
Certainly, we try to do 3-4 fundraisers a year. The next one is “Ruffing Up the Dead”, For a rescue group that saves and re-homes death rows pets, called Critical Care for Animal Angels. It’s going to be held the evening of Saturday Oct. 15 at the Coldwell Banker Office in Warner Robins, Ga.
14. Where can we get in touch with you, and where will you appear next?
15. Are you single and available? <wink>
I am single and I suppose available but I don’t really date much. I have a very full life right now. I am very comfortable in my own skin alone right now concentrating on my adjusting work. I really want to make some more time to spend with my Mom and Dad right now, I never get to see them and they live so close to me. Dating someone right now would be difficult at best but you never know.
If there is ANYTHING else you would like the readers to know, type it up! If I have missed anything relevant, fill in the blanks please.
I would just like to say THANK YOU!!!!! to everyone that has posted on FB and have come to the events, gotten pics and all of that. I love spending time with you guys in person. I am honored to be part of all of this and I do take it seriously. All of the love I have experienced from all of you guys has been a real bright spot in my life. Also, thanks for making this happen for me and inviting me to the party!
I don’t know about you fans, but this guy is the real deal! He is sweet and generous, and he Rocks as Negan!
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