Surging ratings for the walking dead have led to the no-brainer decision for cable network amc to renew the series. The debut episode of season six drew an astounding 19.5 Million viewers; season seven will debut in october 2016. Audiences continue to be pulled in as they are invested emotionally in the hit show’s characters, enduring nail biting suspense as the bottom can drop out at anytime with death lurking around every corner for major characters.
English actor Andrew Lincoln, 42, is at the helm of a show the producers hope can last into a 12th season. Born Andrew James Clutterbuck, he adopted the stage name “Lincoln” while in college because he thought that Clutterbuck sounded like a poor character in a Charles Dickens novel.
Lincoln was a rugby player when he was cast as the Artful Dodger in a high school production of Oliver! He claimed his initial motivation was to use the part to get the attention of girls. On getting the acting bug, “It just caught me,” Lincoln told The Independent in a 2009 interview, “I was kind of a loud, showy-offy child which is probably why he thought I’d blag it.”
Lincoln was required to prove his mettle as an actor from the onset, with his father demanding he secure admission at a top school before pursuing drama. Lincoln did not disappoint, earning a place at the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. During that time, he pulled his weight working as a commis chef, a barman and in a factory that made car exhausts.
After graduating, Lincoln had success getting regular work as an actor, with notable roles as Edgar “Egg” Cook on the ‘90s BBC series This Life and appearing as Mark the 2003 film Love Actually. He was still insecure about his potential for making it in Hollywood. The fickle winds of fortune often blew hot and cold, as Lincoln said in 2009, “You can be suffocated with praise. You think, ‘Oh man, I’m gonna take LA down,’ and then you don’t hear anything.”
It would take until 2010 when his breakthrough role arrived as small town sheriff’s deputy Rick Grimes in The Walking Dead. Everyman Rick Grimes became both the audience’s link to the show, and a moral compass amid the spiritual degradation of man that occurs through the zombie apocalypse.
Something terrible happens to people when they face the prospect of their own mortality. They have to make tough decisions, contemplate things that they never believed themselves capable of. You see it happen during wars, natural disasters and other tragedies where the veneer of civility is replaced by something entirely different.
Rick Grimes is central to the show because he represents a semblance of decency in a world where any actions required to stay alive can be rationalized. Adding to this, he is not only responsible for himself, but as leader of a tribe, his decisions impact on many others. His indecision when it comes to killing show antagonist Shane Walsh or rival gang member Randall could be read as weakness, or it could be interpreted as the lingering embers of Grimes humanity. Lincoln also reads Grimes family as a key motive for his character’s actions.
“His engine, at that point, was his wife and his child,” Lincoln told The Telegraph in an October interview. “The terrifying decisions he had to make – I feel like, if he weren’t a father, he wouldn’t be able to make those decisions.”
Perhaps Lincoln identifies because he himself is a family man. He met Gail Anderson, daughter of Jethro Tull vocalist Ian Anderson, in 2001 when she was a production assistant on the set of a TV show Lincoln was directing called Teachers. The two were married in June 2006. The couple and their two children, Arthur and Matilda, reside for much of the year in Atlanta where The Walking Dead is filmed.
“I love it here. It’s a city of transplants,” Lincoln said of his Atlanta digs to Rolling Stone in 2013, “People bond easily. We lucked out with this job being here.”
The question of which of Lincoln’s Walking Dead cast mates will be dispatched during the current season is a difficult subject. The loss of friendships weighs heavily on Lincoln’s mind; he explained that full scripts are often withheld from the show’s actors to keep them in the dark. It’s almost preferential rather than having to live with uncomfortable moments and conversations with actors who know they are on their way out.
There’s no hint drama or scandal surrounding the actor, as Lincoln’s peers only have positive things to say about him. Director Roger Mitchell, who worked with Lincoln in his 2004 film Enduring Love, told The Guardian “he’s the same as an actor as he is as a person: diligent, modest, witty. He works very hard at this job.”
Further illustrating Lincoln’s standards is his unwillingness to allow the show to descend into what he told Details magazine was “pornographic violence.” Lincoln expects an emotional payoff every time graphic scenes occur rather than using gratuitous violence to maintain audience interest.
Right now, The Walking Dead is the number one TV show for the coveted 18-49 age demographic. That means maximum exposure for advertisers, which keeps AMC salivating at the prospect of continuing the show forward.
Lincoln’s place within the still-evolving series seems secure. He wants to continue to push the envelope as The Walking Dead goes to new places. But there’s always the chance that he becomes bored with repeating the same material over and over again. If that becomes the case, there are hints that he would look for a change of scenery—either seeking new roles to challenge him, or perhaps even finding him on the other side of the camera as a director.
The present, for Andrew Lincoln, appears brighter than ever. And the audience will continue to watch, because after all, he is their hope for survival in a world that no matter how dark, allows them to escape, however momentarily, from their own reality.