'Walking Dead's' Andrew Lincoln Previews What to Expect From Alexandria

The star of AMC's zombie drama says the remainder of the season will explore if the survivors can integrate with a new society.
 Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from episode 511, "The Distance," of AMC's The Walking Dead.]

AMC's The Walking Dead arrived at the gates of a key location from its comic book counterpart during Sunday's episode, but the path to get there wasn't as easy as Rick and company would have expected.

After being introduced to Aaron (played by new series regular Ross Marquand), the Alexandria recruiter gets quite a welcome from Rick — who punches him in the face and insists the group properly vet the newcomer after the horrors they've encountered with Woodbury and Terminus.

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Ultimately, the idea of a sanctuary that Aaron offers to the beleaguered and defeated group becomes something nearly everyone is on board to see for themselves — creating a clash between the increasingly cautious Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Michonne (Danai Gurira), the most outspoken of the group.

They wind up agreeing to a compromise that, after a brutal walker drive-through, leads them to reunite Aaron with his boyfriend, Eric (played by newcomer Jordan Woods-Robinson) and to the gates of Alexandria, the longest-running location in the comic series that the AMC zombie drama is based on. There, Rick's stance seems to soften as viewers see Lincoln's ex-sheriff hear the sound of children safely playing for the first time in years.

The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Lincoln to get inside Rick's head, preview what to expect from Alexandria and the characters viewers may encounter going forward.

Why was Rick so hesitant to trust Aaron? What was his worst fear after his experiences at Woodbury and Terminus?

I think you find a man who just had two of his closest friends die because of calls that weren't made by him. He's on hyper alert and hyper vigilant at this time because of Terminus and all of the people he's met since the prison have either been dangerous, organized or brutal people or a combination of all three. On the back of [the deaths of] Tyreese (Chad L. Coleman) and Beth (Emily Kinney), Rick is almost borderline neurotic and a control freak as a result. He's absolutely adamant that the group not lose anybody else. They're relying on him but Carol says, "You were wrong but you were right," and that is what is necessary now a days in this new world.

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And that means so much coming from Carol (Melissa McBride), who has become a total badass.

Out of everybody, Carol probably got there [realizing how dangerous survivors are] before Rick but Rick has certainly caught up. Those two seem to be the lynchpins of the group waiting for the others to catch up with them.

Rick and Michonne — who are typically on the same page — disagreed about Aaron. How will this change their relationship going forward?

What you'll see in back eight [episodes] is that we're moving into very difficult and unchartered waters and it's very uncomfortable for some of the characters. Look at Michonne's journey since season two: she's the lone wolf and was lost and now she's the one calling for us to stop and trust. They've all been beaten down after the last six or seven episodes that all of them have their own agendas and perspectives in what they want. It was as vocal an opposition as Rick has heard in a long time. He's not like the Governor — he's not untethered yet. There's probably space for him to get to a place where he's not anchored by his relationship with his family — meaning his closest and dearest — but at the moment, he still is. It's very touching journey that Michonne and Rick go on — after they are reunited as a group, she's always checking on him because she can see that he's terrified. He's a man that's mortified that he's going to walk into another Terminus.

Who wouldn't be?!

Yeah! The coda in the episode is Carol's line.

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The group has arrived at Alexandria. After waiting so long to trust Aaron, how will Rick respond to what's behind the gate? We see the close-up of Rick's expression softening, like he's breathing a sigh of relief when he hears the children playing inside.

It's so eloquent that nothing needs to be said when you hear sound of children playing. That noise is something that none of them have heard for two years and a sound Rick never thought he'd hear again. Even when Rick is coming toward the gate, everybody is on tenterhooks because they think he's going to back out. Then he gets a nudge from Michonne and it's very simple and touching. It's a change in the story, what happens now. We're moving to a completely new space and it's leading into a new show. They've been so beaten and damaged of late that you'll see people that are coming back from war and the fallout of that in every which way.

Rick is very much an alpha male. How will he fit in with a new community — especially one where he's not the leader?
I think it's going to be uncomfortable for a while (laughs) — for everybody! That makes for a very interesting drama. You're going to meet a lot of new characters in these next few episodes and learn a lot about what's been going on in D.C.

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Rick hasn't made a good impression with Aaron after punching him. What challenges is he facing coming in to Alexandria when he's sort of a bad guy?

I don't know but I don't think they necessarily care. Uniting people or being liked by people isn't something that's high on Rick's agenda; staying alive is essential. The whole thing with the punch is it's nothing personal. It was a terrible call to bring a stranger into where they were staying, it's bad protocol; all Rick is doing is saying to wait, start again, interrogate the guy and see who he is. I don't think it's important to Rick that he makes friends; he's got all he needs around him. But you're right, what ever is behind the walls has to accept us and we have to maybe fit in to some new way of thinking and living.

How will Rick's group fit in with the residents of Alexandria, who may not have experienced the horror and killing that our survivors have? Can they ever fit in? Is there a moment where they can all relax?

That's absolutely the drama at the heart of the rest of the season. That's the landscape that we're investigating: whether these people are able to integrate anymore. Whether they are social animals; whether they can be recognized as social human beings anymore. It's been so much fun this season, a lot of it because it is quite psychologically intriguing and you get to see the damage. But you'll also be very surprised about the humor and other things in the rest of the season. It turns on its head in an instant. But you are going to meet some intriguing people.

What did you think about the group's path to Alexandria? What kind of characters do you think Rick and company will meet within the community? Sound off in the comments below. The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@THR.com
Twitter: @Snoodit

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