[SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched Sunday’s midseason finale of The Walking Dead, “Start to Finish.”]
If you thought the midseason finale of The Walking Dead was brutal, star Andrew Lincoln has a message for you: That’s nothing compared to what is coming up next. Fasten your proverbial seatbelts, people, because the road out of Alexandria is about to become a lot bumpier (no doubt thanks to that Sam pipsqueak).
We caught up with Rick Grimes himself to get his take on Sunday’s midseason finale, and he was kind enough to offer plenty of insight into a few key scenes from the season 6 halfway point. But he also couldn’t help but gush about what is coming next, although it sounds like fans should brace themselves for more losses to come as the show wades into “deeper, darker waters.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So, here we are at the halfway point with eight episodes down and eight left to go in season 6.
ANDREW LINCOLN: The back half is by far the most frantic we’ve ever done, and I think it’s one of the most rewarding — the acting, and everybody, and the story, and just where we go is phenomenal. So it’s sort of a double-edged sword — you’re kind of exhausted and beaten and made it to the finishing line but at the same time you’re like “What next?” It’s exciting. It’s very exciting.
Every once in a while you have an episode that is just action overload. The season 3 premiere at the prison was like that, as was the season 5 escape from Terminus. This was sort of like that as well with the zombies busting through the gate right at the start. What are filming episodes such as this like when you have that non-stop tension and energy?
When we shot it, I thought [director] Mike Satrazemis did a phenomenal job. It was kind of like an impossible episode — we read it and we just thought, “How on earth?” Particularly that first act, where the wall comes down and everybody is spread in different areas and swarmed. Just the logistics of trying to shoot that sequence alone. And also, we spoke about it as well, everyone in Jessie’s house — that single story alone could’ve filled up a whole hour of the show, so I thought Mike did an incredible juggling job of trying to squeeze in the logistics of shooting it.
If you thought that was intense… episode 9 — and I’ve been saying it since we shot it — episode 9 is… well, if you thought that was intense, just wait. I think it’s on par with any of those, and it may be the most ambitious, and the most epic and just insane, emotional, action-overload we’ve ever attempted. When we shot it, it was pretty much all night shoots, and everybody went mad in that episode, and I can’t wait to see the results, because it was bananas. We were all covered in blood and screaming, and it was like nothing I’d ever witnessed before. So you thought 8 was intense? Wait for 9.
What are you saying, sir? I just assumed you guys were going to calmly stroll right through the walkers in your zombie guts ponchos and everything would be just fine and you all would go live happily ever after. Are you saying that’s not going to happen?
[Laughs] It’s all left so well, isn’t it? And merry Christmas, everybody! We’ll see you in three months! it’s going to be fine! Rest assured, it’s not looking good for the Alexandrian crew. Yes, there will be blood.
That was a pretty interesting place to end the episode right there, with Sam calling to his mom as you guys start to move to freedom and throwing the whole thing into doubt.
You know the show as well as I do — that’s pretty much the way we roll. There’s a glimmer of hope, and then it’s smashed to smithereens. Where we’re headed is somewhere very new and different and exciting, but before we get there, there’s going to be a little bit of spillage. It’s going to be tough. It’s just the way it’s got to be. I do have to say that my favorite [before the opening credits] teaser in a long, long time was in episode 8: the ants teaser. I remember reading that, I didn’t see it, but I always loved it. I just thought it was such a crazy, strange, odd, and weird teaser.
I saw the camera starting to pan from the quiet of Sam’s room towards the window and I thought we were going to see the walkers approaching, but instead it was those damn ants.
Oh, I know, it’s so strange! I loved it. I remember reading it and just going “I love this.” I just think it’s really perfect. It’s terrifying and engulfing, just that powerlessness.
Let’s talk about your last scene with Tovah Feldshuh, who plays Deanna. She gives you this big speech about how “they’re all your people.” I know how much you two respect each other as actors and people. What was filming that like?
It was very moving. It always is when you know someone is finishing their time on the show. And so it’s charged, it’s always charged with emotion. Tovah is an incredibly unique, brilliant, fiercely intelligent, vastly experienced actress, and she brought this incredible energy and big humor — some of the rudest jokes I’ve ever heard came out of her mouth — and I loved working with her. I just thought she was a brilliant leader in her own right.
And it’s great that she has a hero’s death, that’s what I loved about it. It was befitting of the character, and also Tovah, her spirit. But yeah, doing those scenes was incredibly moving, and in fact in one take, I was too emotional, and I said to Mike, “Please don’t use the one where I’ve got tears rolling down,” because it just doesn’t fit. Because it’s moving when it’s the last time you get to do a scene with a character and with a friend. She’s brilliant — she’s a brilliant actress and she’s a bad-ass. The thing that I love about her is she has a young spirit; she’s always searching, which is something that I really aspire to as well.
And I said it to her when we had her death dinner, I said it’s one of the most youthful, exciting things when you see someone who’s traveling, very intelligent, very bright, and lived so full a life, and yet she’s still not certain, she’s still questioning. That’s so brilliant to be around, very humbling to be around. She dug the show, and she got her hands dirty, she got bumped and scraped and hurt and put her body on the line, and it was such an impressive, brilliant experience to work with her and very, very sad to see her go. Her line “Well, s—” was one of my favorite lines, along with Carl’s, which I think is the best line of the first 8. What’s the line? Like “But you gotta understand, your dad was an asshole.” I read it and I just came up to Riggs and I said “Sir, I give you this line.”
It’s interesting you brought up the more emotional takes with Tovah because I spoke with her and she said she really liked those ones. It’s interesting how you shoot the same scenes in different ways until you find the right balance and tone.
The great thing when you work with someone like Tovah and many, many other actors on this show is it doesn’t feel like it’s set. I’ve said it many times before, sometimes you work with very experienced and accomplished actors that know what they want to do and they make decisions before they come on set, and that’s great and it works. I’m not one of those actors — I like working much more with the other actors that I’m with, and I think that’s the exciting thing.
When you work with people that listen and want to explore a scene, then you sometimes get different takes, and sometimes get very different takes, and they take you by surprise, and they’re the fun ones, because you don’t know what happened. But yeah, sometimes you walk away from it and you’re like, “Whoa, maybe I was a bit too emotional in some of those scenes.” Because there’s a fine line between, is it Andrew being sad that this is Tovah leaving or is it Rick truly engaged in what is happening at this moment? Because ultimately scenes are an exchange — somebody is trying to be something to the other person. It’s not about emotions, it shouldn’t be, they just happen.
It’s an important exchange because it gets to Rick’s arc for the entire season as to will he ever accept these Alexandrians? Do you think Rick will take her words about being one community to heart?
It’s no coincidence that that’s the gift that she leaves with Rick, in the same way that she leaves another incredible sort of gift, question to Michonne. And I do think it’s been going longer than these eight episodes. The moment Rick arrives in Alexandria, I think he was very suspicious, and also because of the environment that he’s been pulling his family through for two years. You know, he arrives at this place and he’s understandably distrustful and concerned and much more about looking after his own. And also there were problems with leadership and challenges last season, and certainly he hasn’t had time to really assimilate, he just hasn’t, and he says it to her.
All I will say is that I think a lot of the questions that people have about why — why is he so adamant? — you’ll just have to wait for the season to play out because I think [showrunner Scott Gimple] and the guys have done an incredibly brilliant job of laying down seeds and literally going off different ways and tangents but ultimately tying them up eventually, and answering a lot of questions and frustrations that probably people have watching the show — going: Why aren’t they doing it? What does this mean? Just wait. Trust and have faith in Mr. Gimple and his gang, because now that I’ve just finished all 16, all of us kind of look back on go “Oh! Oh, yes, I see.”Oh I get it; that’s so smart.” Because it’s the long game, really, that he plays.
Rick has an interesting scene with Carl after Ron tries to kill his son in the garage. And Carl says to Jessie that nothing happened, but Rick pointedly asks Carl, “Everything okay?” The sense I got — and you can tell me if I’m right or not — is that he knows something bad went on in there but he trusts Carl enough at this stage to let him handle it himself.
Possibly. There’s a genuine sense between Rick and Carl that he can handle himself — he’s shown himself to be more than adequate as a soldier, as a warrior, as a survivor. And there is a point at which he knows that he’s not telling the whole truth, like a father does. And so there is a question of going “Do you want to talk about this?” I think he absolutely understands that something bad went down. He doesn’t buy the lie that he’s been given, and he’s just given him another opportunity. He knows the static, he’s not an idiot, that I killed Ron’s father, and it was something that we spoke a lot about; even though there is this very obvious friction between the boy and me, and my son and his son, we wanted it to be believable, that he would make these efforts and try to heal this wound because of Jesse and because of her needs.
So yeah, you’re right, he knows that something bad went down, and he’s giving him the benefit of the doubt, because he knows that he’s been spun a lie. The difficulty is, it’s one of those check-in moments when the pulse of the episode is so intense, and it’s one of those “Do you wanna talk about it now? Can we talk about it now?” one of those check-ins rather than, I think if there was space, if there was more breathing space, the conversation would’ve continued.
We see this prologue scene where Daryl, Sasha, and Abraham encounter this new group, the Saviors, who mention their leader Negan, a character comic book readers are very familiar with. What can you say about this nefarious new group?
It almost feels like the end of episode 9 is a chapter finish, and then episode 10 is a completely different flavor, something we’ve never seen before in the show. And then what begins to happen — because we’ve been looking so inwardly, and it’s been much more about group dynamic and security — suddenly what happens is that the world starts to get a little bigger, and with that, we lift our heads up to the horizon, and in many instances the horizon is a beautiful in one direction, and in other directions it’s a terrible, terrible nightmare. It’s an exciting time.
We were shooting a scene in episode 16 and there was an energy on set that I haven’t felt since season 1. It’s such an exciting thing in so many ways because it was incredibly tough to shoot this scene and it was also something that we hadn’t seen before with Rick. It was a place that I hadn’t been to before as well as other people; it’s very, very thrilling. And also it just felt like we were going into deeper darker waters, and it felt right — the timing felt right, and I just had a feeling of what I felt in that first season, when I thought “Oh, I wonder what we’re doing here; I wonder what this is?” And it had that same level of commitment from everybody — and that was in the final episode of season 6. But it was an amazing, exciting, thrilling place to finish the season.
But in answer to your question I would say yes, they’re incredibly bad, far more organized, and far more terrifying than anything we’ve ever seen before. And things start to get very, very, very dark. But I mean, there is a glint of hope before that, and actually I think episode 9 and 10 are a couple of my favorite episodes. I think 9 more than anything when I read it, it kind of just blew my mind. I was like, “Are we going to be able to shoot it?” But then when it started to happen it took on a life of its own, and it felt like everything the show does well is encapsulated in that episode. Yeah it’s one of my favorites we’ve ever done. Saying that, I think the run-in to 16 is the strongest we’ve ever done. It’s just amazing — it just runs to the end.