All Crops: EMBARGOED FOR DALTON 12/11 Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes, Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon - The Walking Dead _ Season 7, Episode 8 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Some hugs are bigger than others. Look no further for proof than the big bromance embrace between Rick and Daryl as the characters were reunited at the Hilltop at the end of The Walking Dead’s midseason finale. Daryl had just escaped Negan’s clutches at the Sanctuary while Rick was finally ready to fight again after watching one Alexandrian get beat up, another shot in the face, and another gutted in the street. The symbolism of the hug (and the handing over of the gun that followed it) made it clear the group was finally ready to “kick some ass.”

We spoke to Andrew Lincoln to get his take on why Rick is ready to fight back, why he “did not enjoy filming on set” for the first half of season 7, and why that hug we saw on screen was nothing compared to what went down between takes.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, tell me about that whole crazy set-up of shooting that scene where you have to paddle through those walkers in the lake?

ANDREW LINCOLN: I told you this already, but this was such a painful season until that point. That was the highlight of the first half of the season for me. I came back home after two days of being drenched in sweaty, zombie-filled waters, and my wife said, “You look happy for the first time.” Ross [Marquand] and I were thrilled to be outside of the oppressive walls of Alexandria and to be able to be in a completely different sequence. Everybody, all the crew were in the lake with us. It was great fun. It was mad. It was a mad sequence, but we loved doing it. And then they keep coming up with these inventive ways to kill the principal characters, it was definitely a fun episode.

I saw some behind the scenes video they showed on Talking Dead of you in that boat. It looked like you had to bail out that boat in between takes. You had a bucket there and were getting the water out.

Oh yeah, I couldn’t work out why I was so wet and I realized [it was] because they’re so cheap that we had to bail ourselves out in between takes! It was a full two days of bailing. That’s pretty much it. And poor old Ross got in the water. But he was loving it. I think he was just really happy to be involved in quite a comprehensive action sequence.

That scene where you get back to Alexandria and Rick has to just stand there and watch Aaron get beat up right in front of him for no reason — is that as much the breaking point for Rick as anything else?

Yeah, that was definitely the idea of the episode is putting it from Rick’s point of view because there were several other storylines they were trying to bring together. They wanted to show a guy who just risked his friend — they risked both their lives in the most insane plan ever and come back — to see somebody tortured in front of you and be powerless again.

And then the next step is seeing two people have been murdered in cold blood, realizing that this is never going to work, this is an untenable situation. You’ve got a distrustful, dishonest, sociopath and the people working for him are… it’s just never gonna work. And that’s what they wanted, stages throughout the episode of dropping of this slow burn. And then, of course, it’s voiced out loud by Michonne in that beautiful speech that she gives.

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Yeah, that little pep talk. Is that the final push, when she says, “We can do this, but only if we do this.”

I think so, but I think it’s also already done. Rick chooses the cell, Morgan’s cell, to try to get some space from everybody. I think that that was very intentional. [Showrunner Scott M. Gimple] and the gang wanted the voice of reason to calm him after such a chaotic day. That was a man trying to weigh all of the options. I think that she’s able to articulate to him what he already pretty much knew, which is that he would rather die standing up than spending a life in servitude, on your knees.

Let’s play devil’s advocate for a minute. Rick comes upon Negan at the pool table and he sees two people are dead. Then again, Negan didn’t hurt Carl when Carl tried to kill him and took out a bunch of his men. And then he did take out someone who was going behind Rick’s back to usurp power. Does Negan win any points for that at all?

You know, he doesn’t. [Laughs] It’s a reasonable, albeit psychotic, argument. Rick is a complete control freak. Because for someone else to lead the show and to make these decisions on his behalf, it’s untenable, it’s just not a position that he’s willing to accept. So in spite of the argument, which, maybe in time, Spencer would have shown his true colors and there would have been a confrontation, I think this is a different Rick that we’re seeing now. It’s a much less impulsive man.

Plainly, by being able to swallow his pride — for way too long in my opinion, come on, kick some ass! — for a full half season, someone who’s been such a driving force, to be able to hold his breath for the sake of the community, it’s an amazing turn-around from whom this guy was last season. I think it’s key to realize that this is a very short space of time we’re talking about, relatively speaking, in story terms, in the world of the show, and it’s difficult because the past 18 months actually is probably in the region of three and a half weeks in real time. Look, devil’s advocate, you’re absolutely right, but he’s a pissant. [Laughs] Gutting Spencer in front of the community is probably not a decision Rick would have made.

All Crops: EMBARGOED FOR DALTON 12/11 Ross Marquand as Aaron, Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes, Christian Serratos as Rosita Espinosa, Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan - The Walking Dead _ Season 7, Episode 8 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
Credit: Gene Page/AMC

It’s interesting how you mention that Rick is a control freak because one of the lines that struck me the most from the episode is when he sees Maggie and he goes up to hug her and says, “You were right, right from the start. I didn’t listen. I can now.” That’s a huge thing for Rick to be able to admit.

Yeah, I think that’s right. He’s not very good at saying sorry. Not very good at listening to other peoples’ plans. These are things we know about the unreconstructive Mr. Grimes. But he’s had a heck of a lot of pain beaten into him over the last eight episodes and I’ve always wished it to be about calibrating a complete leader — this journey that I’m on playing this guy — and I like to think that’s what we’re trying to do. I think that he’s learned countless lessons about bad decision-making, about listening to others, about compassion, about foresight, all of these qualities that I think pride may have got the better of him and blinded him to.

What happened actually is very exciting and you can’t get more dangerous than somebody who’s lost everything and has nothing left to lose. In spite of him not having a thing but a loaded gun, they still are quite a formidable outfit. I think that that was what I wanted from that final scene. They’re almost like individual chambers with a loaded gun — they’re strong in unity. It’s the beginning of the insurgence, but there’s still a way to come.

It’s very triumphant. Even at their lowest point, they’ve gotten to a place where you feel like, all right, we’ve gotten through the slog and now let’s unite again and fight back, with that last beat obviously being very symbolic when Daryl hands you the gun.

It sucks for that first half of the season to be a guy that led this group for so long — and they’ve been not without their trials and tribulations but there’s always been some semblance of hope in Rick — and to have that beaten out of him is heartbreaking, at least it was for me. I did not enjoy filming on set. I was not a happy camper. To have unity, just the beginnings of the flame being ignited again, was enough to get me excited for the back eight.

Tell me about that big bromance hug, and hugging it out with Norman Reedus. Daryl and Rick, back together again.

Dude, it was embarrassing. What you saw was nothing. You should have seen us in between action and cut. It was just never-ending! You couldn’t pry us apart, Dalton! I started to cry because I was so relieved he was out of the sweatpants because he stank and he was really unpleasant. I was so relieved that I didn’t have to hug him in those awful sweats.

For more Walking Dead intel, follow Dalton @DaltonRoss.

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The Walking Dead

AMC's zombie thriller, based on the classic comic book serial created by Robert Kirkman.

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