'Walking Dead' star Andrew Lincoln talks about making AMC's new zombie hit: 'It got crazier and crazier'
Last summer, I spoke at length with British actor Andrew Lincoln for EW’s Fall TV Preview just as he was coming to the end of shooting the first season of The Walking Dead in Atlanta. Of course, at the time, there seemed a good chance that it would also be the show’s only season. Despite the creative input of Shawshank Redemption auteur Frank Darabont and legendary sci fi producer Gale Anne Hurd (The Terminator, Aliens) AMC’s adaptation of the long-running, Robert Kirkman-penned zombie comic book series, seemed like an unlikely project even from the cable network responsible for such idiosyncratic successes as Breaking Bad and Mad Men. It would have been a brave man for sure, who bet the farm on The Walking Dead becoming the season’s breakout hit.
A brave man and, as we now know, a richer one. The Walking Dead debuted on Halloween and garnered a record-breaking audience of 5.3m viewers, making it the most watched premiere in AMC history. Unsurprisingly, the network announced this week that it had commissioned a second season.
Given all this, I thought Walking Dead fans new and old might be interested in persuing an extended version of my chat with Mr Lincoln, particularly as he discussed at some length the filming of the most recent episode, Guts. You can read it after the jump.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: As someone who is familiar with the Walking Dead comics, I’m assuming this show is going to be about a lot more than just shooting zombies in the head.
ANDREW LINCOLN: If you’re aware of the graphic novel, then you’ll absolutely know that it’s much more character-based. It’s more about what happens to somebody when everything is stripped away from them and how does one re-create society. The interesting stuff we’ve been finding as actors is the inter-character dynamic and how that changes and modifies. There’s scenes reminiscent of Lord of the Flies in there. [It’s about] who rules. Is it rule by force? Rule by maternal instincts? By reason? Necessity?
Image Credit: Scott Garfield/AMCIs it strange going from those personal, dramatic moments to, “Oh, and now I’ve got to stick an axe into this guy’s head?”
It’s one of the most entertaining things about the job, frankly. You can be doing this intimate love scene and then the next scene you’ve got to beat a zombie to death. Every single day I go to work, I’m confronted with scenes that I have never ever seen on film in my life. It’s wild. It feels like there’s been no rules.
Could you give an example of a day when you were like, “Wow, being in Love Actually did not prepare me for this!”
Pick a day, really. I was emailing home and they said, “What are you up to today?” and I said, “Well, I’m riding into an apocalyptic vision of Atlanta on a horse called Blade, wearing cowboy boots and a stetson and I’ve got a bag of guns strapped to my back.” That was my day at the office. And that was only week one. And it got crazier and crazier. It just gets deeper, darker, more twisted as the time passes. There was one scene that beggared belief. I’ve got a Mackintosh on and basically intestines wrapped around my neck like a cravat and I was holding an axe trying to escape from hordes of zombies. That actually is a set piece from the graphic novel. What we’ve been doing is jumping around by faithfully adhering to some set pieces and then broadening characters and moving elsewhere somewhat as well, just to give a bit of interest to both parties—the new viewers and also the people that know the graphic novel.
Image Credit: Scott Garfield/AMCWere you a fan of zombie movies before you won the role?
Not really. It’s a genre that I wasn’t that acquainted with. I knew the Romero’s and I loved the first one. But I had to go back to them. And Frank was brilliant because he’s a self-confessed zombie fanatic and he gave me the hit list of the ones that I should see. He said, “It’s just as important the ones you don’t see as well.”
Have you been constrained at all by the fact that you are on basic cable?
There was one sequence when I had an axe in my hand—yet again— and I was chopping up a body at 4.30 in the morning and it seemed like we were doing something extremely dark and wrong. I looked at [Walking Dead make up effects supervisor] Greg Nicotero—and this is a man very experienced in the gore genre—and even he looked at me and nodded like, “DVD extras, definitely.” But apparently the scene is in. So AMC has been as good as their word. If it earns its keep character-wise and plot-wise, it stays in, no matter how dark and intense it is. And believe me, there have been some very dark and intense moments.
I understand the main difficulty with the shoot has been the heat.
I was filming in the Sahara last year and that had nothing on this. This has been the most brutal weather conditions, Because of the nature of the show—we’re a traveling band of misfits living outside a lot of the time—most of it is moving around in exteriors. And it’s not just the heat, it’s the humidity index. You can’t breathe.
What was it like working with Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer actor Michael Rooker, of whom I’m quite a fan?
You and me both. The first thing I said to him was, “Henry is one of the great performances.” It’s one of those films that over time has just matured. I thought it was one of the great films of the ’80s. I loved working with Michael. He was amazing. Michael—bless him—his first two days were on a rooftop, and they were the worst two days of filming. People were talking about 140 degree heat. Frankly I don’t think that’s possible but that was the talk. And Rooker was chained to a rooftop by me for two days and went mad! He was pretty intense and fired up at the beginning [laughs] but by the end of it…
Image Credit: TWD Productions/AMCHow far into the comic books does the first season get?
I can’t disclose exactly where we get. But safe to say that we are at the top of the iceberg. In real time, we’re probably about six days into my waking up into the apocalypse. So, it’s very, very, very early on. This is our last day and I’m just trying to finish without dying, frankly—in both a very real sense and a very theatrical sense. It’s so funny doing a job like this because everyone is panicked whenever a gun is pointed or any sharp implement or a zombie gets too close—everyone starts quivering a bit. But it’s been absolutely the most exciting and intense and wild job that I’ve done in my 16 year career.
So there you have it. What do you think of Lincoln’s performance so far? And do you think there is a chance of him not making it to the end of season one? Let us know!
More about The Walking Dead: