Ahead of the release of The Walking Dead’s seventh season, EW takes an inside look at the horror franchise. Entertainment Weekly’s Ultimate Guide to the Walking Dead is on sale now and can be found with a collectible cover on newsstands after Oct. 14. As part of the book, we spoke to key Walking Dead figures to look back at one of the biggest moments from each season. Some may be major, others a bit more subtle. In this first installment of the series, we chatted with Andrew Lincoln about a key moment from season 1.
SEASON 1 KEY MOMENT
THE EPISODE: “DAYS GONE BYE”
THE MOMENT: RICK SHOOTS ZOMBIE GIRL IN THE HEAD
THE INTERVIEW: ANDREW LINCOLN
It was the very first scene of the very first episode, and it set the tone for everything to follow. Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) finds post-apocalyptic carnage on the road, but what he discovers down the hill by an abandoned gas station is even more horrifying — a little girl with bunny slippers and a teddy bear that also happens to be a zombie. When Rick shot that little girl in the face, it showed that this was a brand new show with brand new rules. We spoke to Lincoln about that famous scene, and his famous father-in-law (Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull), who watched the entire thing go down.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This is the first kill of yours we see on screen. Was it your first kill of filming as well?
ANDREW LINCOLN: The first kill was actually the first day, which was Bicycle Girl. That was the very first thing that we shot. I can vividly remember it being so extraordinary and weird.
This opener was the second week of filming because my father-in-law was playing in town and he came and visited on set with my mother-in-law and sat behind [director] Frank Darabont for the whole day. Frank is this huge Jethro Tull fan, and I was so in my own space trying to get the scene right that I didn’t introduce them. And Frank has never forgiven me. They’re even in a photograph together and I haven’t introduced them. It was the most ill-mannered moment of my whole life — with my in-laws and my new ingenious director. I’m still haunted by it.
What was it like when you arrived on set for this scene and saw all those burned-out cars and trucks on the road?
I remember coming up and seeing this turned over Mack truck and thinking, “Holy s—, there’s been a f—ing accident!” And then someone was like, “No, you’re in the right place. This is your set.” That was the beginning of realizing the scale of the show, so walking through that gas station set-up was just thrilling. It was the most incredibly immersive experience — and terrifying. And that set the tone and the bar for what that first season was all about. It was extraordinary. It was lots of big expansive setting up of that world, and that’s what I’ve always seen that first season as being — a man wakes up into a new world. So there was a great ambition in set design and scale that I don’t think we’ve really backed away from much.
Frank Darabont said that the opening teaser serves as a mission statement for the entire series. Do you agree?
I absolutely agree. I loved working with Frank and I remember him [showing me the teaser later] and I just started laughing. I was so shocked by what had happened and how he had cut it together. I said, “Is this the actual thing that is going out?” And he said “Yep.” And I went, “Oh my lord!” And he went, “Yeah, we’re trying to tell a story.” And I went, “Well, that’s it!” You don’t need to know anymore than that. It expresses in a very short period of time exactly what the show is. And what the world is. And the extremities of the world. I can’t think of a more impactful, shocking, thrilling, and terrifying beginning. We’re horror, and we’re not apologetic about it. And we’re trying to be emotional. And it’s not what you think you’re watching. All of those crumbs are fed to you very quickly and effectively.
What sort of interactions did you have with Addy Miller, who played the zombie girl you shot?
Addy was amazing and the makeup was phenomenal. I had not met her without all of that, so I was just greeted with this terrifying apparition. I had been quite solitary. I really hadn’t spoken to anybody, just because the nature of the story. So I just thought, well, this a pretty awkward moment because I’m going to have to get a 357 magnum and shoot this girl in about 30 minutes so I better introduce myself. And I said, “Look, I’m really sorry about all of this and I hope you don’t mind that I’m going to have to shoot you.” And I was really upset by this because it was the nature of the scene and I was kind of distressed anyway by the whole world. And she was like, “I’m fine, just get on with it.” And she was 8 or 9 years old at this point and telling me, “C’mon man, get to work. We’re professionals here.”
So she was completely comfortable with the entire idea. And I was groveling around, trying to apologize for the next hour, and she was magnificent. I just remember looking over at my in-laws at one point, and they looked gleeful but also extremely confused and disturbed. And I just thought, that’s what we’re trying to do. There you go. Welcome to the family!
Check out the two collectible covers for Entertainment Weekly’s Ultimate Guide to The Walking Dead, below. And for all the essential exclusive Walking Dead scoop, pick up the book right here.