The Walking Dead is an American horror drama series developed by Frank Darabont based on the comic book series by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard. The series stars Andrew Lincoln as sheriff’s deputy Rick Grimes, who in the first season, awakens from a coma to find a post-apocalyptic world dominated by flesh-eating zombies.
Andrew Lincoln aka Rick Grimes took time to talk about his character’s progression in this zombie apocalyptic world. The Walking Dead is known for keeping its secrets, so lets not expect him to reveal too much.
Russell Dickson: Do you think Rick is a better father this season?
Andrew Lincoln: Yes, he is. (Laughs) I like to think my parent skills have improved vastly this season. You have hit the nail on the head, certainly where we left the group last year, the death of Andrea and also the boy murdering another ‘child’ certainly brought him round. Those two factors were major in him actually opening the gates to Woodbury, and I think that he realized where he had been a lot of last season was a place that was obviously that he had lost one of his main engines that drove him – his wife, in the apocalypse. Taking that away was like taking an appendage away, and he was out in the wilderness for a lot of last year. I think we find Rick in a completely different space.
RD: Do you think this season is about Rick returning to some sort of sanity?
AL: I think so. I think he was struck by grief and I think that put him out in orbit, and I think he was lost for a lot of episodes.
RD: The show strips people of their modern gadgetry. Without the gadgets, people rely solely on their survival skills.
AL: Yes, you can distil humanity in this show, because you pull away all the distractions. And actually the moments I love to play in this show are the simple moments when you don’t have that conflict, when you try to hold onto that normalcy of everyday life. That’s brave. Brave is not stabbing somebody, or shooting somebody. Brave is actually trying to do right for your child, or being selfless. This is an incredibly brave thing that Rick is doing. It may be construed as foolhardy, because he is a good leader despite some of the decision-making. People fall behind this guy, but he is willing to sacrifice leadership and the brutality of the world, and being a very vital cog in that machine for the sake of the group.
RD: One of the more interesting moral questions the show asks is: what is going to happen to the children of this world?
AL: Because they don’t have anything to anchor, they have no history to anchor themselves to, and I think in some ways that is liberating to them, and in other ways it is terrifying, morally.
RD: Does this make you question yourself as a father?
AL: Of course it does. That was one of the great attractions to this show, was the fact that I wasn’t the man with no name. I was the father and a husband, and those were his motivational forces in this show. Not because he was badass or anything as superficial as that but the fact that he was a dad and a husband and that’s what gave him fortitude and strength to keep going. You have hit the nail on the head, the journey between the father and the son and the daughter this season is for me, the most captivating area that we are exploring – and I can’t say anymore, I am sorry. But, it is exactly that. That is the stuff that I am interested in, and I think we explore it.
RD: There are a bunch of apocalyptic shows currently airing. Obviously, the Walking Dead is miles above them. Why are post-apocalyptic shows so interesting to people?
AL: A lot of people always ask about the show’s success and I think it is chance. I am one of these people that believe sometimes you capture something that people just want to see, and it strikes a chord in people’s hearts and minds.
RD: Why do you think it people love it so much?
AL: Well, I like the fact that it’s like a Trojan horse. We come in under the guise of a zombie show, and hopefully we make you cry, because of a character losing somebody, or you feel an engagement with a character that you wouldn’t otherwise imagine you would be doing watching a zombie show. When I phoned up my agent and said, “It’s a zombie survival horror, are you aware of this fact?” (Laughs), and they said, “Yes, trust us, it’s AMC…” And I said, really (incredulously), this is after 18 years of acting, it’s time for zombies? They said, trust us, it is AMC. I looked at the credentials of the people involved in it and they said Frank Darabont, Gale Anne Hurd, Greg Nicotero – these are practitioners at the height of their game, so I had to take it seriously, and I read the script, and when I read the script I realized that it was when sci-fi and fantasy are good, they can be cautionary tales, they can say something hopefully a little bit bigger about the human condition that you otherwise don’t get to do in a law show, or a cop show. Hopefully, if the storytelling is good, and the acting is good, and the production values are good, you can sometimes make people watch something and reflect upon their own existence by watching it, and that’s how it was explained to me. They said we are trying to make a Lord of the Flies…
RD: Do you find it hard to be yourself when you return home after playing such a disturbing role like Rick Grimes on TV?
AL: I think we all pretend. My brother is a teacher and his job is to educate these young people, and he says he does more acting than me on an average day. Think about it, we present whatever we choose to, to the world, so that is the fascination to me. I get to do it for a sort of living, it’s dressed up as acting, but actually what I am doing is, I can’t pretend to access parts of myself that don’t exist. That way madness lies, maybe I am (laughs) a little off the wall, but I think every aspect of this character is somehow informed by my imagination, or me, or the same thing. But I agree with you, sometimes you carry bits of it home and sometimes they stay with you for a while. My wife banned me from watching relatively disturbing movies halfway through last season, because I couldn’t sleep. She said, “You are not sleeping. Stop watching these things that are kind of generating a kind of madness.” So I suppose there is a point where you have to turn off, but that’s the fun of it as well. You get to see who you are sometimes.
RD: After doing four seasons of the show now, I imagine the cast and crew are pretty close. Did they surprise you with a 40th birthday party in September?
AL: You know, I was home for that. Thank you for asking. It was very sweet. Last year, I was on set and we were filming in Griffin (Georgia). We were doing Lennie’s (Lennie James) episode called Clear, and on my birthday he delivered that extraordinary performance where (his character) Morgan had been, and I said, “That’s the best birthday present I could have wished for!” Front row seats for some amazing acting. When I walked outside, some fans were outside on the train tracks and they all started singing happy birthday. It was so moving.
RD: So this year you had some time off and went home for a while?
AL: It was my daughter’s birthday actually; I flew home for her 6th birthday. She’s hijacked my birthday for the rest of my life; she’s a few days before mine.
RD: With a lot of characters dying off like Hershel and the Governor this season, does it worry you that you might be next on the list?
AL: Yeah, it does. For everybody.
RD: I’d say you and Norman Reedus are the safest on the show.
AL: What makes you say that?
RD: Because you guys are the show.
AL: You ask, what is the attraction of this show? And I think one of the great attractions is that, certainly, I have seen movies recently that are exciting, action-packed movies and fantasy movies, but you feel no jeopardy for the characters. You look at it and you go, they are all going to be safe. But for this show, they built a very, very smart device, which, hopefully, keeps people on the edge of their seat and, hopefully, rooting for the character that they love in this show, because we do kill them off. Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead writer) set the precedent in this graphic novel, he said, “Nobody, absolutely nobody can be safe in this world,” and I tend to agree. I am one of those people that say, if my time is up, and it serves the story, so be it. Let’s tell the best story we can tell for the sake of the fans.
Editor’s Note: The Walking Dead Season 4 Part 2 premieres on FX Australia, Express from the U.S. Monday February 10 at 1.30pm (Express play) and 8.30pm AEDT (Primetime)