The Walking Dead season premiere is a little over a week away. It’s something that fans have been dreading all summer because it’s Andrew Lincoln‘s final season. Lincoln has portrayed Rick Grimes for eight seasons and it all ends within the first half of season nine. Entertainment Weekly asked past and present cast members their thoughts about Lincoln’s departure, including those who have been with Lincoln from day one! Grab the tissues.
CHANDLER RIGGS – Carl Grimes, Seasons 1-8
“I always considered Andy my “TV dad.” He was always someone that I looked up to with the utmost respect because of how dedicated he was to his role. Every single day he showed up knowing every word of the script — everyone else’s lines, the stage direction, everything. There were times on the show that I felt unmotivated or exhausted, but then I looked to Andy and saw how much work he put into his role and became inspired to push forward. I always told myself if he could leave his home and family for so long each year for this role, I can definitely trudge through another year of high school and keep working on the show.”
“That being said, whenever I had a scene with him, I was always so excited. The energy he brings to each scene is so extreme regardless of what he is doing, and his preparation for getting into character was always very loud and intense. Sometimes after a few takes he’d pull me aside and introduce an idea to think about or a different way to say a specific line, and suddenly everything would make more sense and ultimately the scene would blossom in a way it could never have before. I had always wished that Andy would direct an episode that I would star in, but I am sure I’ll get that opportunity in the future.”
‘When I found out that he was leaving the show, I had mixed emotions. As a fan, I was sad that to hear that he would be leaving the show, but as his “TV son” and his friend, I am so excited for him. Knowing that he’s going to have so many more opportunities to do what he loves is amazing. He has been telling me for years about all these amazing ideas and projects that he wants to work on, but was never able to because of the show — and now he has the opportunity to do them. I am so excited to see where his career goes from here, and I can’t wait to support him in everything that he does.”
DANAI GURIRA – Michonne, Seasons 3 – Present
“Andy is all about manners. “Never,” he would often say, “lose your manners.” I watched this function as his guiding principle for seven seasons and watched how it created an amazing work environment. I always say he hatched from an egg because he’s such a rare breed. It really amazed me when I joined the show in 2012, the lead actor was selfless, eager for all to excel, celebratory, passionate, funny and kind to boot. He also had an endless well of joy. I’ve often called it a childlike joy. Boundless, resilient and light. Every day, he walked into the hair and makeup trailer, at whatever wretched hour and just overflowed with positivity and affection. And that overflow was infectious. It made this job that much more enjoyable, for everyone including cast and crew. His unfailing focus and passion kept us all, like him, ready to give it our all. Many would come to our cast and comment on how they had never experienced anything like it. We were, as a result of his astounding example and spirit, a merry band of apocalyptic survivors.”
“For me, he was an anchor, as a leader must be, but he was also someone who never failed to effortlessly earn my deepest respect. I spent many a long, long work day in sweltering hot Georgia with Andy, and watched how this man never tired, never stopped giving more than 100 percent, and kept everyone around him motivated and excited to be there. And never, ever did he lose his manners. There is always a way to achieve your goals, even handle highly intense situations without losing one’s manners. It was an amazing example to be guided by, especially in this day and age, when vitriol is one tweet away. It’s a principle that has nourished me in my profession, and my life. Whatever egg he hatched from, we need to get to cloning it because the world would be so much better with more Andy Lincoln in it!”
NORMAN REEDUS – Daryl Dixon, Seasons 1 – Present
“Andy is the best leading man on television, and a glowing example of what everyone that’s come onto this show has tried to follow, and he’s done that since day one. He’s always been the first person to say hello, he’s always been the first person to offer help, he’s always been the first person to put himself out there beyond what his job asks him to do. He’s the first person there, and he’s the last person left. And he wants to talk about it, which is exhausting at times. But he wants to break it down, he wants to put it back together. He wants to talk about your parts, my parts, everyone’s parts. Watching how much time Andy puts into his job inspires other actors on the show to put the same amount of time in.”
“When my role on the show started to change was when he and John Bernthal started including me in scenes on decisions. And I don’t know if it was ever said to anybody. I think they kind of just did it naturally. When we would go to inspect something and talk about what the plan was, instead of Shane and Rick just looking to each other and talking about it, they started looking to me too. That helped propel my character into one of the leaders on the show, and those two actors did that naturally. All of a sudden, I was included and I wasn’t just the outside guy throwing squirrels and wanting to stab people and shit. They transformed my character into something else whether they know it or not.”
“I can honestly say Andy’s made me a better actor, a better friend, and even a better father because I see how hard he works at keeping his family life and his work life. It’s easier for me. My son’s in New York. I can bounce on a plane and bounce there for the weekend for the days I have off, but his family’s all the way in England. So to watch him balance that and balance work — it’s been an admirable thing to watch. I can’t say enough good things about that guy. Why he doesn’t have 15 freakin’ Emmys right now blows my mind.”
LENNIE JAMES – Morgan Jones, TWD Seasons 1 – 8
“There is a song we use to sing in church that has the lyric, “When the roll is called up yonder I’ll be there.” I’d like to paraphrase that line, if I may, to say that when the roll is called of the most important leading men in TV history, up yonder or anywhere else, Andrew Lincoln’s name will be there. It has to be there. Andy took a responsibility for The Walking Dead like no other actor I have ever come across or heard about. He only ever wanted what was best for the show and transferred that desire to his fellow actors, the writers, the producers and the crew. And he did it by demanding nothing more of them than he did from himself. He led from the front and led by example. Also, he did it all whilst being a fully committed member of the ensemble. No one involved in the show, at any level, was more important than him and also no one was less important as far as he was concerned. The journey of The Walking Dead hasn’t always been sweetness and light. I don’t want to give that impression. There have been very bumpy times to say the least. But the bottom-line that Andy laid down has acted as a consistent marker for all of us and has kept us going on more than one occasion. We’d here him shout, “Let’s smash it!” and we’d remember why we were all there.”
“In the second season, when the cast and creatives started to be asked “Where’s Morgan and when is he coming back?” it was Andy who called me to tell me it was happening. He wanted me to know. He said it was like getting a Standing O. When the show asked me back in season 3, it was Andy who called me to make sure I was going to say yes. He also showed up on my first day back, a day that he wasn’t actually working, to “welcome me home,” as he put it. And when the show asked me to come back as a regular, the first person to contact me to see what I was thinking and feeling about the offer was Andy. He has championed me and my character from day 1, and not just me. Ask any other actor past or present and they will have have their own version of Andy doing likewise for them. Considering how much he had to do for himself, his family and his character — where the bloody hell did he find the time?!”
“It has been one of the major joys of my career to have worked with Andy and an even greater joy and privilege to call him my friend.”
STEVEN YEUN – Glenn Rhee, Seasons 1-7
“I think you’d be hard pressed to find people like Andy. He’s that perfect mix of class, humor, and talent. I remember my first days with him on our show and remember how calm he made everyone. As a totally green kid starting work on my first ever show, I was absolutely terrified, but somehow on that first day I couldn’t help but feel a sense of ease, as if someone had taken all the difficulty and nerves out of the situation for me. That was totally Andy Lincoln. I learned quite a bit during my seven years on that show with him. Sometimes it was direct, like him taking the time to work through a scene on our off days with me. Other times it was passive, just me just looking up to him, asking myself if I could ever do that; if I could be so resolute in the face of enormous pressure.”
“I heard this from my cousin and it seems to encapsulate the environment that Andy generated around him: kindness breeds safety; safety breeds confidence. To know that things will be taken care of because your lead actor is also an incredible leader is something that I will be forever grateful for. I owe Andy quite a bit for helping and guiding me throughout my time with him on that show. I’m just trying to catch up to his example.”
Congratulations, Andy. You’re one of the greatest. Love you.
LAUREN COHAN – Maggie Greene-Rhee, Seasons 2 – Present
“Andy is a flawless professional – he makes everything easy for us. He inspires a level of authenticity, delivery, and teamwork that elevates us all to our very best, not just through his work, but from who is as a person as well. In what has turned out to be an experience that I think a lot of us share, when I first started on the show, Andy called me on my way home from my first day of work. He let me know he was there for me, told me that we are all in this together, and reassured me that he was at the other end of the phone and available to talk at any time.”
“I believe that really good things don’t happen in isolation. Often they may be on the brink of materializing, they may be a good idea, but they usually need something very generous, so full of love and effort — someone contagious to bring them to life. We are very lucky to have this catalyst in many forms in our The Walking Dead family. And we are insanely lucky to have experienced the care of a person like Andy. Here’s to a friend with the most ferocious heart…thank you. We love you, Andy!”
JON BERNTHAL – Shane Walsh, Seasons 1-2
“I love Andy. I can’t think of another actor in my life that has had more of an impact on me, and that is more important to me. He is fiercely dedicated, but also unbelievably available and kind. I think the thing about Andy that strikes me the most is, often you get one of those or the other. Often you get people that are so unbelievably focused and encompassed by their work that they’re almost like a marvel to look at. But the thing is that they remain sort of closed off, and part of their process requires an unbelievable amount of self reflection and almost a wall around them. Andy’s really the only guy I’ve ever worked with who has that amount of dedication and that amount of commitment, but remains completely open and completely available for anybody. I think when it comes down to it, it’s just an ultimate love for the project, a love for the work, and a love for the community of people that make the work.”
“My first memories of Andy are at his audition, and then us going down to Georgia together and starting this process. We were two young hungry actors who felt so unbelievably blessed to be there. We were f—ing nervous, man. We were a pair of nervous wrecks. I remember one day in our first week of filming, Andy just turned to me and said, “Hey man, I’m not going to be nervous anymore.” I saw this man take ownership of not only this part but took ownership of being the leader of this entire project. I remember when we were shooting his initial scenes in the hospital, I saw him walking around with nothing on but a hospital gown, screaming up to the heavens to get prepared for a scene. I remember just sitting down on a rock and watching that. I had never seen anything like it before — how maniacally committed he was, and how far he was going.”
“When I met Andy, I was right on the cusp of being a father and a husband. I’ve learned life lessons from Andy on how to do that — how to do this job, and how to be a father and a husband and a leading man. To this day, not too much time goes by where I don’t look myself in the mirror and say, “What would Andy do?” So many times when I’m getting frustrated on my set, or when the chips are down, or when I just need a second to myself, I need to just concentrate on my own character and I feel like I’m about to burst, I try to get centered. I say, “What would Andy do? Think about Andy. Think about Andy Lincoln.” I love him and I believe in him, and I’m so f—ing grateful that he had such an influence on my life. I would not be the man I am, I wouldn’t be the father I am, I wouldn’t be the husband I am, and I surely wouldn’t be the actor I am if it wasn’t for my time with him.”
“He’s just a very important person to me, and unlike any other. Definitely the best lead that I’ve ever worked with in my life in any capacity. As I go forward with The Punisher and with some of the movies that I do, I often times do everything I can to emulate that, and I’ve failed. I fail. I don’t think there will be another Andy Lincoln.”
From a fan stand point, Andrew Lincoln will be greatly missed. There were a lot of times I found myself frustrateD with Rick Grimes, but I always cheered for him. The character learned from his mistakes, gave people something to believe in and always encouraged leadership in others. I have no doubt that Andrew Lincoln is much like Rick Grimes in that way. From everything I’ve read and heard about him, he truly considers this cast to be family. He nurtures them and helps them to be better performers. I believe he truly cares about the show and even though we won’t see him week to week, Andy’s spirit will still be a part of the show.
Thank you Mr. Lincoln. I hope we see you again soon. Farewell.
You can read all twenty-three tributes at ew.com. The Walking Dead, Rick’s final episodes begin October 7 on AMC.
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