Hang­ing up his badge

Walk­ing Dead star trades arc of weapons for arc of story

The Expositor (Brantford) - - WEEKEND - JEFF MARTIN THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

SENOIA, Ga. — An­drew Lin­coln will no longer evade the arc of a knife, a bul­let or a bloody base­ball bat wrapped with ra­zor wire on the Ge­or­gia set where AMC’s The Walk­ing Dead is filmed.

The show’s ninth sea­son, now air­ing, will be the last for his char­ac­ter, sher­iff’s deputy Rick Grimes, and Lin­coln has wrapped his last scene.

Now he’s hop­ing to di­rect an episode of the show, so he’s “shad­ow­ing” one of the direc­tors dur­ing film­ing near the small town of Senoia.

“I’ve al­ways had a fas­ci­na­tion with the lan­guage of film,” he said in a re­cent in­ter­view. “And I’m a con­trol freak. I have strong opin­ions es­thet­i­cally, and maybe it’s time for me to own up to it and see if I can, you know, put my money where my mouth is.”

His trade­mark hu­mour finds its way into many of his an­swers to ques­tions about his fu­ture.

“You’re in­ter­rupt­ing my shad­ow­ing!” he says. “There’s lessons be­ing taught out there right now and I’m not there. Which way to point the cam­era is prob­a­bly be­ing taught at the mo­ment.”

The drama some­times fol­lows the story lines of a comic book se­ries that de­buted in 2003, but also veers from that nar­ra­tive to cre­ate new tales. It’s built around a cast of char­ac­ters strug­gling to sur­vive in a world that’s fallen into chaos and be­come in­fested with zom­bies they call “walk­ers.” The hu­mans also break into fac­tions and some­times wage war with one an­other.

As the show en­ters its fi­nal sea­son with Lin­coln’s char­ac­ter, he speaks lov­ingly of the “less-is-more” as­pect of the up­com­ing sea­son.

“There’s less gas, there’s less guns, there’s less food,” he says. “But we’ve got more ten­sion as a re­sult, and thrills and spills. If some­thing goes wrong in this land­scape that we in­habit now, then we’re in se­ri­ous trou­ble.”

Lin­coln says The Walk­ing Dead has al­ways been an en­sem­ble show that’s not de­pen­dent on any one char­ac­ter.

“The themes this sea­son are ab­so­lutely what we set out to achieve in the first sea­son,” he said. “It’s a story of hope, fam­ily and friendship. Peo­ple with noth­ing in com­mon re­al­iz­ing that they have ev­ery­thing in com­mon.”

AMC pres­i­dent Char­lie Col­lier said “what started as the Rick Grimes story re­ally be­came a story about a group of peo­ple help­ing each other sur­vive and hav­ing each other’s backs in the worst of con­di­tions.”

Col­lier re­called when Lin­coln’s char­ac­ter rode on horse­back into a de­stroyed and de­serted At­lanta and then waged war on the down­town streets.

As Lin­coln pre­pared to film his fi­nal episodes, he said he felt like he was watch­ing a cruise ship slowly pulling away from him.

“On this cruise ship, there are the lights and the danc­ing and I can hear the clink of the glasses, but I’m sort of bob­bing around in the shal­lows of the sea as it drifts away, you know, it con­tin­ues and it con­tin­ues in an amaz­ing fash­ion.”

Much of the show is filmed in Senoia, a small town about 55 kilo­me­tres south­west of At­lanta. It has helped fuel the film in­dus­try in Ge­or­gia, which has boomed in the past decade.

“At­lanta was not a place I knew,” Lin­coln said, “and over the last decade it’s be­come the new hub of the in­dus­try.”

He had al­ways en­vi­sioned com­ing to the United States from his na­tive Eng­land “as a sort of gate­way to lit­er­ally try­ing to raise my pro­file so I could keep work­ing in Amer­ica.”

“It kind of worked,” he says. “It went be­yond any­body’s ex­pec­ta­tions — this show and the suc­cess of this show — it was al­ways with a fu­ture to work­ing here.”

Lin­coln lives in an At­lanta sub­urb, where the sto­ries about him in­clude one from a Halloween evening, where he ran into a for­eign ex­change stu­dent dressed in a zom­bie cos­tume. He was wear­ing a mask so the boy, who was by him­self, didn’t rec­og­nize him.

“Then I took my mask off, and he ab­so­lutely freaked out,” Lin­coln said. “He was just a sweet kid, and we just thought, ‘Well, what are you do­ing, come with us.”’

The story has par­al­lels to the show, where the char­ac­ters of­ten col­lect strag­glers in forests or along coun­try roads. That’s what Col­lier says will con­tinue to drive the show af­ter Lin­coln’s char­ac­ter dis­ap­pears: The story of a group of peo­ple try­ing to sur­vive.

“You’ll see oth­ers rise,” he says. “There’s just so much more story to tell.”

CHRIS PIZZELLO/THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

An­drew Lin­coln at­tends the 34th an­nual Pa­leyFest: The Walk­ing Dead event in Los An­ge­les. Lin­coln has wrapped his fi­nal scene as an ac­tor, and the up­com­ing sea­son will be the last for his char­ac­ter, Sher­iff Rick Grimes. The sea­son premier is Sun­day night on AMC.

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