Andrew Lincoln, who plays Rick Grimes on AMC’s The Walking Dead, talks about some unexpected prep he did in the off-season for his character and why he’ll be shaving when the season’s over.
Q: Season 4 opens with Rick assuming the role of a farmer. Did you do anything to prepare for this new vocation?
A: Well I just moved to a farm in England, so yeah, it worked out kind of nicely that Rick became a pig farmer. I planted a lot of trees in my orchard and basically did some farming in between seasons. It was unknown to me but it was a kind of method break. I like planting trees — it makes me feel good about myself.
Q: Do you have experience with livestock on your farm?
A: We’ve got chickens. I do love pigs and I’m trying to ship them home. I’d love to get some Iberian pigs and get them in our field, but my wife doesn’t want them. She wants horses and I’m losing the battle for pig over horse.
Q: What did you know in the off-season about where Rick was headed?
A: We wanted to certainly address the Carl issue and his responsibilities as a father to both of his children. On the back of Andrea dying and bringing in the people from Woodbury, we talked a lot about maybe dialing him back. It’s funny, because I think this season can be summed up in a question, which is, Can we ever come back from the things we’ve done and return to the people we once were? For a lot of the characters this season, that’s interwoven in their story lines.
Q: Rick’s sporting a burlier beard this season — was that your choice?
A: No, my wife can’t wait to see the end of this beard! It’s not a very popular beard in the Andrew Lincoln household. My son saw a picture of me in Season 1, and Tilly, my daughter asked him, do you know who that is? And my son, who’s three years old thought the bearded man in front of him had given birth to Rick in Season 1. You can laugh but I’ve got the gray hairs to show it. I’m convinced that every zombie year is like a dog year, it adds seven years on.
Q: That’s grandpa Rick out there!
A: Are you starting to call me Hershel? Donna in make-up just called me Hershel. I sat down in the chair and she hadn’t seen me for a couple weeks and she went, “Hey, Hershel!” This is no joke.
Q: This season Rick has delegated some of his leadership skills to people around him. Is that something you would be uncomfortable doing in your own life?
A: Oh no, I gave up leadership when I was about 15. I don’t make any decisions any more. That’s why I’m an actor; they just tell me where to be and what to say.
Q: Last year Rick struggled to keep a grip on reality until the very end of the season. Were you excited to go back to playing him more even-keeled this season?
A: The attraction of playing the role is you change forever when something that traumatic happens to you, so it’s a kind of release and I think it was necessary for him to find a quieter place to exist. And I think that you meet him when they’re trying to establish civilization and it’s a very different flavor, the first episode, because you see the beginnings of what potentially could be a life for everybody. So yeah, it was strange playing a man that’s not constantly battling with himself and the world, but it was different and cool that way; it was new territory.
Q: What was the moment you realized the farming was such a big part of Rick’s storyline for the season?
A: The moment I walked on set and saw six little piglets covered in s—. And they gave me a pair of gloves. They actually escaped one day and I had to get them back into their pen. I spent one day covered in so much poop from these that nobody sat next to me the whole day. I had crap all around my pants. And I had a crowd of flies around my crotch, like Pig-Pen, from Snoopy.
Q: Do you like it when Rick is particularly grimy or when he’s a little more cleaned up?
A: I think it’s important that you know that I’ve worn the same shoes for four years. They’ve been resoled six times; they’ve fallen off my feet, so what do you think? I don’t think I’ve given a good performance unless my shoes have fallen off at least twice a season. It makes me think I’m not working hard enough.