There’s a reason Andrew Lincoln was excited to film the back half of The Walking Dead’s season 8 (which will premiere Feb. 25 on AMC). Well, at least two reasons, actually. Reason No. 1: “I got to play with a lot of the old guard,” says Lincoln. “I got to lean back in with Michonne, with Morgan, with Daryl, and it just felt that there was some interesting movement in the back eight episodes. And unexpected storytelling.” Okay, and reason No. 2? “I also got to hunt Negan with an ax, which is always great fun.”

Wait, what?! Hunt Negan with an ax? Yes, that does sound like great fun. Tell us more, please! Unfortunately, that’s all Lincoln will say about that, but the man who plays Rick Grimes does draw some interesting distinctions between the first half of season 8 we have already seen and the second half to come.

“While the first half was action packed and very kinetic with lots of separate stories, my experience with the back eight was a much more character-driven, psychologically challenging journey for Rick and what he’s standing for,” says Lincoln. “What does he stand for? Who has he become up to this point? It’s a reevaluation of who he is and what he’s capable of becoming.”

So how will Rick react, not just to the impending loss of his son, but also to the fact that the Saviors have now escaped the Sanctuary and regained the upper hand? “It was like The Empire Strikes Back in that last episode,” says Lincoln of the midseason finale before looking ahead. “A lot of it now is about consolidating, licking their wounds, and trying to find some way to strike back and win the war,” he says of the survivors. “It’s a mad scramble. It’s a much more balanced second half. Rather than it just being one-way traffic, and then a retaliation in the last episode of eight, this is much more skirmish and guerrilla warfare. For me, it was certainly the most emotional and challenging eight episodes I’ve done in quite a while. There’s still the rallying of troops and a war to be won, if indeed that’s the outcome.”

While the outcome for Rick remains in doubt, the journey for Lincoln involved a lot of work in season 8. The actor appeared in every single episode in the season’s first half. So did he get any episodes off in the second half? “I got one,” he laughs. “I got one episode off. It was super busy for me. It was a hard season. But it kind of fits my masochistic personality. It was my perfect season because I’m in everything. It’s hard work, and it was emotional, and it was a workout. To be fair, when I got back, I was pretty beat. I felt like I’d sort of earned my action figure, if you will.”

And that action figure comes complete with an ax.

For more Walking Dead scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @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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