So this is what you get for trusting people. Rick Grimes and Co. heard a radio signal and saw painted sings promising peace and sanctuary at a place called Terminus. But all that awaited them there were a group of possible cannibals who funneled them into a box car. Man, people suck. First the Governor and now this?!? But to hear Andrew Lincoln tell it, that is what’s to be expected — and feared — in this new post-apocalyptic environment when season 5 of The Walking Dead kicks off on Oct. 12. We chatted with the star about what’s coming up — including the most violent season yet and a return back to downtown Atlanta — as well as his thoughts on how long he might like to remain on the show…assuming he is not killed off prematurely at some point, which is a terrible assumption to make when it comes to The Walking Dead. (Click through both pages to read the entire interview.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s start with generally talking about Rick. Where’s his head at now? The group’s in this terrible position, but they’ve got the guy they need back to help them deal with it.
ANDREW LINCOLN: This has been by far the most fun season for me to play. It’s the most difficult as well, because it’s a man who’s very single-minded, very determined, very much in control of whom he is, every aspect of his life. He’s gone through the soul searching and he’s come out on the other side. He’s in this new place, which is incredibly dynamic and dangerous. I think this is very much the season that he’s back. You stand alongside your family. You stand in front of me, you’re a problem. And that goes for people within the group, and also the world, the people you come across.
It feels like we’re moving to a new area now. It feels like we’ve got this incredible journey, and this incredible family of people with us. And we’ve gone into this room, and it’s a very dark room and it’s a very scary room, and we’ve locked the door and you’re not allowed out. We’re going to the other side now. And I do think it’s worth stressing— we’re really earning our rating this season. There are families that watch it together, but just so it’s on record, guys: It’s a grown-up show this season. And some of the violence is moving into a territory where it’s human violence, the most scary aspect of this show. In fact, some of the most lifelike moments are the zombies now. And I think that that’s a huge change. It feels real after these people have been inhabiting this world for two years, you know? The people left are going to be just as equally pragmatic and brutal, and tough, and resilient. So the clash in this season, and the conflict and the fear and the terror comes directly from the humans.
And obviously we know Gareth is the guy that’s trapped you in Terminus. I’m sure Rick is gonna be sizing his adversary up. What is it about this Gareth character that makes him dangerous?
I think what we were identifying is they may not be the strongest adversaries, but they have a system. The system there works, and it’s incredibly efficient. He has smarts. He’s a worthy adversary. He’s young, but he’s ruthless. You saw it at the end of last season. But he’s smart, as well. You will find out a lot in a very short space of time about Terminus and Gareth.
I know you guys are going to be in the city a lot more, going back to that urban vibe that we had in season 1. What’s it like returning to that?
One of the great things about this season is we’re in very similar locations to where the whole story began. And for me, it’s just kind of haunting. And there’s something about the urban environment and feeling the decay. And I know that the special effects department is having a lot of fun with that, and skylines and things, and you could see the effect of the erosion of the world, and I think they’re looking forward to creating that landscape as well. So I think every aspect is really fun. And also, just seeing what’s still left, if there are any people left in this city who aren’t dead. I want to stress as well that the last couple of episodes we had contain some of my favorite zombies for many years. There’s a breathtaking sequence in episode 7. And we walk into this environment, and we knew where it had gone now, and it was horrific. It was extraordinary.
Let’s talk about getting most of the group back together. We had these smaller stories at the end of last season, but now it’s like the band’s been reunited. How’s that vibe different?
It’s been great. Everybody missed each other. It was a very strange but necessary isolated band of nine last season. And I think what it did is it filled in the dots with a heck of a lot of characters. I don’t know if you saw it at Comic Con, but there was a banner with the principal cast, and there’s 14 of us. It’s ridiculous! We are an army now, and there is something incredibly formidable about that. But within it, I think, there is a pecking order, there is a hierarchy, and a lot of new people. People don’t know each other as well, so there’s a lot of people trying to work out where their place is in a group, if indeed there is a place. It’s not without its problems, but saying that, we are an incredibly formidable outfit, and quite a frightening one as well. I was working with another actor, and we were rehearsing a scene, and we were doing our thing and she said, ‘You know, you’re really scary.’ And, you know, you forget. But we look insane, and we’re crazy. We’re just a dysfunctional family that somehow is still there.