Interested in knowing what Andrew Lincoln listens to on his iPod before stepping into the role of Rick Grimes? We talked music, working out, Season 4, catching up on the comic book series, and much more during my exclusive interview with the star of The Walking Dead. *Minor Spoiler Warning: We cover events that happened in the first half of Season 3, so you should be caught up on at least the first four episodes before reading this interview.
When I visited the set, I was amazed by how many times the same scene was filmed over again. I was told stories about you having to run up and down the prison entrance all day long, and imagine that the role must be incredibly demanding, physically. What kind of training do you do to prepare to play Rick every day on set?
Andrew Lincoln: Once you’re up to speed, the show keeps you fit and it’s an intense workout. There’s nothing like killing a few zombies to get your blood running. Funny enough, the older I get, and this will be my 40th year on the planet, the more I’ve been training. I just started training again and have been running a lot. I got into the habit of doing it a few years ago when I ran a marathon for a charity I represent.
I have always been sporty and loved physically embodying my roles, so I enjoy it equally if not more than the other aspects of playing Rick. There’s something incredibly freeing about doing all of the physical work. It stops you from being so self conscious if you can stab a zombie in the neck.
I fly out to begin Season 4 in late April or early May, and I’m in training now for it. It takes a couple of months to get battle fit, but it really depends on how the first episode begins. If we jump forward in time, there may be other things I have to do. For example, in the first season, I dropped a stone and a half [Editor’s Note: Approx. 21lbs] because Rick was in a coma. In season 3, I wanted to be much stronger and leaner because these guys have been on the road surviving and have become this kind of unit. If they want me to play bigger and stronger, I’ll be working to that. If it is a direct continuity, I’ll try to match where I was at the end of Season 3.
Norman Reedus and Lew Temple talked about listening to music to get into character, and mention you do the same. What types of music do you listen to before filming?
Andrew Lincoln: I love music, like everybody does, but I find it very useful to tap into certain feelings and moods. For Episode 13 with The Governor, I was listening to a lot of The Black Keys because it make me put more of a swagger in my step during the confrontation. It puts me in a place that’s more antagonistic and direct.
I also make compilations of music, for when I’m thinking about emotional stuff and I also have Rick’s “Bad Ass” mix… Maybe I should release them… [laughs]
I listen to varied music, and there’s a brilliant song by Snow Patrol, called Martha Wainwright. It’s slow and methodic, almost like a folk song, and I’d listen to that over and over for two hours to prepare for the scene where I learn that Lori has died. That song is embedded in my brain [laughs]. I like listening to Marvin Gaye to get myself breathing, and The Prodigy was listened to a lot when I was clearing the courtyard.
As people in the group keep dying, Rick and Carl’s relationship has become stronger than ever. Is that the same case for your relationship with Chandler Riggs?
Andrew Lincoln: It was very, very fortunate that Frank [Darabont], Gale [Anne Hurd] and AMC cast Chandler, and you’re very smart for picking up on this. For a lot of the first season, Carl was Lori’s boy. The relationship was very much about Shane as a surrogate parent as well during the second season. Rick’s responsibility to the group was to the detriment of his family, because the group and survival came first. Rick didn’t have the same relationship with Carl in the beginning, but now it’s becoming more complex. Equally, my relationship with Chandler has grown because of it.
I am just constantly amazed at his intuition. He has a wisdom way beyond his years and an instinctiveness as an actor that some people can never attain. I love working with him.
We lost my leading lady, and Carl’s mom, this season and it was agony on every level for the characters, but also personally as well. It’s the only downside to the job, but it has pushed us together more and it’s a really fascinating relationship. What Chandler is doing in the back end of the season is terrific and there are a couple of surprises in store to come.
When we spoke last time, you mentioned that you would be catching up on the comic book series during your break. Is that something you’re still interested in doing?
Andrew Lincoln: Yeah, definitely. Funny enough, I outed Robert Kirkman at the Paley panel because he still didn’t send over the compendiums. I shamed him… [laughs]
He’s going to send some over and I decided that I really want to mine it to see if there’s something that can be useful this coming season. The thing is that this job is such a gas. It’s brutal, as you know, and relentless…. the filming is hard, but it’s also incredibly rewarding.
It takes about six weeks of me collapsing after shooting, but then I’m desperate to get back in it. I love the world, and I love inhabiting this character. I love where they’re pushing this character, and I’ve never had such a varied job as this. There’s such a rich variety of emotions and physical action in one role.
Every day is a different kind of day at work. We went into the writer’s room just recently and it’s very exciting. I know very little, because they’re just roughly sketching things out at the moment, but it sounds incredibly exciting where they’re going.
Some of The Walking Dead cast appear frequently at horror and comic conventions. It seems like Norman Reedus has an appearance almost every week and our readers always ask about you. Do you plan to appear at events other than the San Diego and New York comic conventions this year?
Andrew Lincoln: The only problem is that, generally speaking, I don’t get much time off. And, of course, my family is with me, so the weekends are family time. This year, I do want to do something in Atlanta. I want to go to a convention there, because the city has been incredibly good to us. I think I speak for everyone when I say that the area has great people, and they are very responsive and respectful of the show. It feels like a homegrown show down there and I’d love to do that comic convention.
In my downtime now, I’m trying to do the panels as much as I can, but they have pretty much become a full time job. I’d want to do a bit more traveling to other countries around the world who are discovering The Walking Dead in the east and South America. Maybe we can tie in some conventions around the world with that. The Paley panel was amazing because it felt exactly like Comic-Con. There’s nothing better than having that direct fan reaction and hearing their reactions. They are the best viewers because they catch everything that we put into it.
I take the fan response very seriously and respond personally to my fan mail. It’s just difficult because I live in England. I try to come home and be dad for the three months that we’re not over in America.
It certainly feels that people are really involved. It feels like there’s a wave of support for the show that’s astonishing and I’ve never experienced anything like that in my life. I want to honor that and let people know how much everyone cares about the job and making it the best we can. So the short answer is yes, I would love to appear at more locations if the schedule permits it.
It is amazing to think of how many people around the world are not only watching the show, but following the actors and behind-the-scenes work.
Andrew Lincoln: I was talking to Darrell Pritchett, who does special effects, and I told him that people want to hear and see him. Everyone is so vital to this show and he does a phenomenal job. That shootout with Axel was one of the most thrilling things I’ve ever been involved in. There is a real hunger, and it seems like people want to know about the behind-the-scenes work and relationships off-camera. We all get along, and there is no hierarchy. It’s such a gas, this job. It wouldn’t be as successful if there were people who were difficult or strange or didn’t respect other people. It’s a rare thing we have going on, and I love working in that environment and with that crew.
I’ve heard the same thing from so many of the people involved on the show. Actors like Vincent Ward were only around for a handful of episodes, but they’ve had nothing but positive things to say about you and their time on the show.
Andrew Lincoln: I knew very early on that the show is made by everyone’s contribution and it just can’t be made by one person. If everyone is respected, the end product is better and everyone gets it. I have been on sets where there is a bit of an atmosphere, and it doesn’t work. You don’t work your best and just get nervous. It’s the same with people not talking to one another… I just don’t get it and it’s not the way I want to work.
If you give every character significance, it helps the story and the world. I thought Vincent was a magnificent actor. The lines he had when he was on his knees and said “do what you have to do” just blew my mind. It was just beautiful how he did it.
When John, Sarah, and I first started doing this, we were all so nervous because we were talking with Gale [Anne Hurd], Frank [Darabont], Greg [Nicotero], and AMC. I just said let’s just have fun and give it everything we’ve got. I think that’s one of the greatest things I’ve learned working in America: Give it everything you’ve got and love it with all your heart. You can’t go that far wrong. You can miss something or make a bad call sometimes, but hopefully the others will notice the difference.
My wife is from the south, and we do quite a bit of traveling back and forth, so I know it can be tough to stick to one accent. Since you started working on The Walking Dead, have you noticed that you’re keeping some of the southern accent when you go back to England? Is it getting more difficult to keep the accents separate?
Andrew Lincoln: [Laughs] I got called out by my mother-in-law the other day for saying “From the get go.” She said “from the get go??,” because it’s really not an English expression. I’m spending so much time in America now, and I find it much more comfortable to be in dialect when I’m there, and it’s really strange. I had to do a little bit of work when I was on my last trip and I’m just so used to staying in it. It’s getting to the point where there are some friends who only know me in dialect, and it feels like a betrayal to go back to my original accent. I’m a bit mad probably…
I look forward to settling back into that accent in Atlanta. It’s very familiar, and comfortable, and I like the sounds that it makes in my mouth, funny enough. I like hearing myself because I express myself in a different way in the dialect. It sounds like an odd thing to say, but it’s true.
Switching back and forth is probably not good for my mental health [laughs], but it’s how I work and I can’t do it any other way. I’ve tried, but it’s not as true when I stay as an Englishman and put it on. It just doesn’t work as effectively.