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Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Rick Grimes is ready to fight! But when people fight, people die. Especially on a show with the word “Dead” in the title. So while we’re all excited to see the battle finally joined when The Walking Dead returns to AMC on Feb. 12, there is a sense of apprehension that accompanies it because one can’t help but assume that not everybody will survive the war.

We spoke to star Andrew Lincoln to get his take on what Rick’s new mission means for those he is trying to protect. Must they be put in harm’s way to achieve the greater good? And what happens when Rick’s son Carl wants to join the fight? How does Papa Grimes handle that? “Everybody knows that when war is called, there’s going to be bloodshed,” says Lincoln.

Here’s what else he had to say about what’s coming up.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: We spoke a little bit about this already, but what was it like getting the gang back together for the second half of the season?
ANDREW LINCOLN: Certainly the Hilltop reunion was a breath of fresh air. I know speaking for me and also Norman, both he and I had the proverbial stuff kicked out of us most of last season. And you know, it was just the one glimmer of hope in a very bleak and dark time for Rick and the crew. And we spoke about it a little bit that now you’re going to see different facets of Rick. You’re going to see a much lighter Rick because the thrill of the fight is on and I think that there’s a freedom that you’re going to see within him and maybe more of a political side to his nature.

That’s really interesting when you talk about the political side, because this is really a total 180 for him where before he resisted pleas to fight, and now not only is he like, “Okay, I’m going to fight,” but he’s got to convince other people to fight a well.
Yeah, it’s a very dynamic back eight, certainly in the story, but also in where we travel, how quickly we travel. I think what he realized very quickly is that it’s one thing making a decision to fight, but you need guns and you need people, and at the moment, they’re completely outnumbered and outgunned. So there are a lot of pressures. Also, secrecy is paramount, but within that, there is a great verve and a sense of reclaiming themselves while doing it, which is certainly really good fun to play.

What’s Rick’s attitude if people like Ezekiel or Gregory don’t want to join up or are too scared to fight? How does Rick handle that?
We don’t quite know their reactions just yet, and also, Rick is nothing if not persuasive, you know? In the past, his persuasiveness has pushed him into this more aggressive stance, but this time you’re going to see much more of a politician — somebody that is willing to hopefully compromise and find a way of persuading these people that the future with Negan as the all-powerful leader is only going to be bad for everybody concerned ultimately, no matter what their relationship with him is currently.

I assume he is going into this knowing that if he brings the battle to Negan, people are going to die. He wants to protect his people, but he knows that could mean losing people in the process, right?
That’s true. These issues have always been faced by anybody leading any community in the world, and certainly in this apocalyptic landscape. Ultimately, everybody knows that when war is called, there’s going to be bloodshed. And interestingly, I think he realizes that this division is going to put him very much in the firing line and it’s incredibly dangerous for everybody concerned, and that is very much part of the discussion in this back eight. And also, it’s going to show what kind of a leader Rick is now, whether or not he’s willing to allow people to choose their own way in this very, very dangerous new world. Then again, some of my favorite scenes were in and around this conflict of interest. He wants this man to be defeated, but at what cost?

What does that mean in terms of him and Carl? Because everything he does is to protect his children, but what if Carl wants to enter the fight?
It’s definitely complicated and I think that as any parent knows, you start with diapers and then they want their own independence. They want their own choices. They want their own life and their own identity. I think certainly that is very much at the forefront of what’s happening in their relationship at the moment and certainly brought into greater focus by the situation, and this new tyrant, Negan.

And I remember when I spoke to you last time you were saying that tonally this back eight is going to feel a lot different than the first half of the season, right?
Yeah, because of the speed and the dynamic nature of them and how quickly they move, certainly the themes and the episodes I was involved in felt much more reminiscent of the first season, because they’re exploring new places and meeting a lot of new people. There are also a couple of episodes that certainly had less people and I have no idea what was going on, which was just great, man. There were a couple of times when I just wanted to check the tea that they’ve been brewing in the writer’s room. And it was just a bit like, “What this? What’s happening?” And it was incredibly great fun to play. I mean, I know it sounds absurd, but there were a couple of situations and sequences that I loved doing early in the back eight that I just thought were really exciting and different departure for the show and for the characters. And Rick is really exploring different parts of who he is and I think a lot of it liberated by the thrill of bringing the fight back to Negan.

For more Walking Dead scoop, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

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Episode Recaps

The Walking Dead

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

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