Andrew Lincoln is at home in London, sipping tea that his wife has just brought him. It’s the morning after The Walking Dead’s fifth-season finale, when viewers watched him, as ex-sheriff Rick Grimes, come head-to-head against the leadership of Alexandria. The walled-off community is so wildly unprepared for the inevitable threats of their world that it has actually started driving poor Rick insane.
“You know, I was thinking, ‘How many of you do I have to kill to save your lives?’” Rick growls at the Alexandrians, his face covered in blood (for the second day in a row). Just 24 hours earlier, Rick had confronted Pete, Jessie’s abusive husband, and sparked an all-out brawl in the streets. Half-crazed, Rick drew a gun on Deanna, Alexandria’s leader, and pointed it wildly at the crowd that had gathered to watch—a move that almost got him exiled for good.
But in last night’s season finale, “Conquer,” Rick emerged triumphant: He put a bullet through Pete’s head and convinced Deanna and the Alexandrians to shut up, listen, and do as he says. “You’re gonna change,” he tells them. Welcome back to the Ricktatorship.
Andrew Lincoln hopped on the phone with The Daily Beast to talk about whether Rick’s feelings for Jessie are real, how Rick is morphing into his old nemesis Shane, and his momentous reunion with Morgan, his oldest post-apocalypse friend.
So Rick proved his point last night about the Alexandrians needing to toughen up and fortify themselves, but Rick also went a little off the deep end there. Some people feel like he was becoming Shane 2.0. Did you think of Shane at all when playing Crazy Rick?
You know, funnily enough, I emailed Jon [Bernthal] a couple of times while I was filming this season, just because I felt, “You’ve been in my thoughts a lot.” And I think that there were definitely echoes of Shane in the Sophia episode [Season 2, Episode 7, “Pretty Much Dead Already”] when he feels like he’s not being heard. In [Season 5] Episode 15, I felt so much of Shane within Rick—that emotional kind of wildness, and also just the fact that he feels like he’s banging his head against the wall and people aren’t listening.
Shane called it, too, in the second season. He said, “You aren’t fit to lead these people. You can’t lead the way you are now. You can’t keep them alive.” I certainly thought of that. [Rick] has had to turn into that man, or at least have part of that man in him. I wanted to physically walk like him a little bit as well. I was thinking about Jon all season, certainly toward the end of it.
Did Shane have a distinctive walk?
Yeah, I wanted to be more sort of hunched over. He kind of tucks his head low, like a boxer, Jon. I kept talking to Scott about that. I kept saying, “Shane! Shane! This is an echo of Shane!”
What is it like for you to play those scenes where there’s just blood pouring down your face and you’re screaming, losing your mind in front of all these people?
It was wild… it was kinda crazy. But also, it’s the combination of a lot of things that have pushed him there. He was trying to be restrained for the sake of all of his family and the Alexandrians. He wanted to do right, he wanted it to work out. But he feels responsible for the loss of Noah, for not being on the supply run, and for keeping his guard down. Then he finds out that Deanna knew about the abuse [that Pete inflicted on Jessie], yet didn’t do anything. And then of course, he’s emotionally charged and physically exhausted from the fight with Pete. That unlocks it.
And he seems humiliated in that last episode. I think he really made a terrible call and is embarrassed by it. But it’s almost like he’s resetting himself in that final episode. He makes his own decision. He says, “You know what, I’m gonna do this.” A middle way. ‘Cause he’s a hardliner; he has turned into a very, very hardline leader.
What do you think is behind Rick’s infatuation with Jessie? They haven’t exactly spent a ton of time together, yet he’s willing to kill for her. Do you think it might have less to do with Jessie and more to do with the ideal suburban life he once wanted with Lori? Is he projecting?
I think it’s funny to see when [Jessie] is holding the baby, when I sort of kiss her on the cheek. There’s this seemingly innocent moment when I expected to see my wife in a second with my child. Alex—who plays Jessie and is a phenomenal actress and has really sort of dovetailed beautifully into the cast—and I spoke a lot about this. I said it should just be two damaged people who kind of discover each other. It’s not a romance, I think it’s just they keep surprising one another with an intimacy. It’s not looked for, it just happens. She’s the first woman that makes this place feel real for Rick, and makes a future there seem possible.
And I don’t even think it’s conscious. Rick is attracted to her, but I think if you asked him on a lie detector, he would go, “What? What are you talking about?” Although my mum watched Episode 15 and she was like, “Yeah, but I mean, you’ve got to question Rick’s motives about that.” She was just like, “Come off it.” But he’s a complicated cat, Rick. He carries lots of baggage. Alex and I have spoken a lot of about that, about it not being a smoldering kind of [French accent], “Ohhh, who are you? What is this?” It’s much more just two people being quietly surprised at the intimacy. But I do think there’s a slight problem now. Now that I’ve shot her husband. (Laughs.) I’m not sure how the next candlelit dinner is going to go.
And of course, the biggest moment from last night: Rick and Morgan are reunited again. What do you think is going through Rick’s mind when he lays eyes on Morgan again? He’s just shot a dude in the head and he’s covered in blood and then here comes Morgan, of all people.
It’s extraordinary, isn’t it? [Showrunner] Scott Gimple is astounding. I think it’s yet again like a mirage. So much has happened in this episode, certainly in the last night, that Rick is sort of completely spun out. And then he sees this apparition before his eyes. It’s a man he recognizes, but he doesn’t recognize because he looks incredibly different than the last time they met. I can’t wait to read that next episode. I’ve had to wait longer than you have, just because we shot this a few months ago. It feels like these two men are poles apart and I’m really interested to see how this new community recovers from this night.
Will you be watching The Walking Dead’s spinoff series, Fear the Walking Dead this summer?
Um, I don’t have AMC.
Is it going on in America when it airs? I know nothing about it apart from them doing a pilot. I was in L.A. having lunch with Robert Kirkman and David Alpert while they were shooting it, the only thing is I was in a coma when it all happened. So I’m not sure if I will. But then again, I think we’ve got cable at our place in Atlanta. I’ll need to get it.
Are you ready for next season? Has Scott Gimple broken down what happens next?
No, I was just talking about it. I’ve just been doing some press in London with [director and special effects creator] Greg Nicotero. I’m seeing him tomorrow properly so I’m gonna get as much information as I can out of the man. I said, “Look. I need to find out what’s happening.” In a couple of weeks I’ll be flying out to the writers’ room in L.A. so I’ll get a much better sense of whether I’m being killed off this season.
Ha! Yeah, that’s gonna happen.
Last question: What do you know about the Wolves? Should we fear them more than we did the Governor or Terminus?
They seem like incredibly bad people. In one sense, I’m pleased that Deanna made a movement toward my worldview, because I have a terrible feeling that a storm is coming our way.