Die another day

Die another day

Andrew Lincoln recalls being less than enthused when a pilot script first dropped through his door for a ‘zombie survival horror’ show.

By Adam Zacharias

Published: Sat 25 Feb 2012, 4:12 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 11:23 AM

“I called my agent and said, ‘Is this a joke?’” says the actor, previously known for more everyday stories such as Love Actually, Made in Dagenham and the fondly remembered BBC drama This Life in the mid-1990s.

However, having read the script, the 38-year-old began warming to the big screen adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s comic book series, which debuted in 2003 and has since reached almost 100 issues.

Though undeniably a “curveball”, Andrew compares the script to “an apocalyptic Lord of the Flies”, as it follow his character Rick Grimes – a sherriff’s deputy in rural Georgia who is shot on duty, and wakes up in hospital in a world overrun by zombies.

“There’s something terrifying about people being driven by those basic needs,” adds the Londoner, back in his homeland having finished shooting the second season in late November. “Visibly, they used to be human. And Rick isn’t your usual loner – he’s an average family guy.”

Developed for TV by Frank Darabont (who directed both The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile), The Walking Dead debuted in October 2010, becoming an immediate hit with both critics and audiences.

The show broke viewing records in the States, where it airs on AMC (Mad Men, Breaking Bad) before being rolled out internationally.

The second series develops the interactions between Grimes and his small group of survivors – including wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) and son Carl (Chandler Riggs) – as they traverse an American wasteland teeming with ravenous ‘walkers’.

Andrew couldn’t be happier with the success of the show, which averages over six million viewers Stateside and has made him a familiar face to American TV audiences. Though it wasn’t his first attempt to crack the market.

“I did a pilot in New York a few years ago, playing a psycho lawyer,” he remembers. “That was my first experience of playing an American in America. I loved it, but I’ve since been very busy in the UK and Europe.”

And Andrew sees an odd parallel between This Life, which focused on a group of young law graduates in London, and the zombie-infestation premise of his new series.

This Life was one of my first jobs,” he says. “It was a huge success because of the characters rather than the storyline. That was what surprised me about The Walking Dead comic books – it was the same thing.

“Having a horror format doesn’t make a successful show. At its best, it’s compelling characters and good storylines.”

Andrew is currently waiting to start filming the third season in spring, though he’s as yet clueless as to where the storyline is headed (“We only get scripts a week in advance; I know location-wise though,” he tells us affably).

Speaking of scripts, Andrew looks back to his international breakthrough role on Love Actually, in which he plays a troubled soul secretly in love with his best friend’s fiancée (played by Keira Knightley).

“When I first read it through, especially the scene where my character Mark drops the cards on the floor with the radio playing, I said, ‘I want that part,’” he says.

“I’m extremely indebted to Richard Curtis for making such a brilliant movie. I know it has become an institution as a Christmas film.”

And how many doors did the film open for him?

“Well, it opened the door that Keira Knightly was standing in!” he jokes, adding cautiously, “Only time will tell.”


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