'Walking Dead's' Andrew Lincoln: Rick Is a "Complete Warrior" in Season 5

"There's a lot of body blows that happen in the next few episodes," the star of AMC's zombie drama tells THR of what's to come
Gene Page/AMC
"The Walking Dead's" Andrew Lincoln

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from "No Sanctuary," the season five premiere of AMC's The Walking Dead and the comics it is based on.]

The Walking Dead's Rick Grimes is back.

Andrew Lincoln's tireless and de facto group leader has emerged from the deadly and brutal Terminus shootout a new man.

After being locked in a train car and coming within inches of having his throat slashed by Gareth's goons, Rick made a vow to kill the leader of the camp of cannibals and hit the open road again — leading a bigger-than-ever group after being reunited with his presumed dead baby daughter, Judith.

To hear star Andrew Lincoln tell it, the man that emerged from that camp is the "most complete warrior" that he's ever been in the zombie drama's four-year history.

The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Lincoln to discuss the events of the season five premiere and the road ahead for his new fearless Rick.

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How is Rick different this season?

He's the most complete warrior, the most decisive, uncompromising leader that he's ever been. I don't think he's at all struggling with moral ambiguities. He's a man that his sole mission is to keep his family alive. Of he sees any threat — and these "Termites" have proved themselves to be incredibly formidable and frightening — the way Rick sees it, is it's not over, it's these people do not deserve to live. The decision has been made. If you stand beside Rick, you're family; if you stand in opposition to him, you're a problem. And it feels very much like this is a man who really knows how to deal with problems.

What has surprised you about Rick so far this season?

We're on episode 12 of 16 and he's brutal. I wouldn't want to meet this guy meet on a dark night and cross him. He's a very dangerous man.

The group is back on the road. How will his experience in the past — and losing Sophia — influence how they navigate the open road this time?

These guys have been living in this world on and off in certain semblances of security for two years now. There is huge strength in numbers; they're very vulnerable with a child — they have no food, they're back on the road again — and as much as they hare, they have a tracker and people very adept at sleeping in the rough and foraging and finding things. But they're very vulnerable and Rick knows this. They've developed certain ways of communicating. As they go on, it feels like they consume the people they meet. They're like a virus that keeps moving forward. The most exiting thing about this season is the pace that it moves: the environments change and the ferocity of them as a group.

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Rick and Carl (Chandler Riggs) are reunited with Judith just moments after realizing that Carol saved all of them. What was filming that scene like?

It's amazing that some of the greatest and most beautiful moments that Rick experiences in this world, he's in floods of tears. It was so beautiful doing the scene with Carol (Melissa McBride) after their history. It's smart: The way to salvage the rift between these two similar personality types — the only way that can be healed is by a debt being paid. She saves all their lives and reunites him with his daughter. We did it lots of different ways and there was an improvised moment where we were trying to develop a stronger bond with the actress playing my daughter. We tried to make it as tender and trying to find a real connection there. Chad L. Coleman (who plays Tyreese) and Sonequa Martin-Green (Sasha) were watching me play the scene out and I called them both over because they weren't in the shot. It overwhelmed me: I knew it was Tyreese that got Judith at the prison. In that moment, I realized it was Tyreese who saved Rick's daughter.

Rick has vowed to kill Gareth (Andrew J. West). How can these two coexist? We know he'll rejoin the group at some point. What will their next encounter look like considering Rick shot Gareth in the leg?

(Laughs.) I'm not quite sure how comfortable a meeting of minds it would be.

Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), Eugene (Josh McDermitt) and Rosita (Christian Serratos) all want to go to D.C. — but Rick has already been there and knows everyone is already infected. What might their discussion look like?

The neat thing about this season is the speed at which we move but also everything is dealt with. All these questions are addressed. There are reasons for and against in every scene. This is a very contentious issue because everything that this group has seen — at the CDC, in Woodbury — all these places have been met with failure. They haven't heard any radio transmission since Terminus and that was a trap; it was a spider's web. It's going to be a difficult argument to encourage the whole group to get on this mission.

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We saw in the episode that Rick, after reuniting with everyone, wants to go back and make sure everyone from Terminus is dead before Glenn (Steven Yeun) stops him. Do you think Rick is losing his humanity? Or is there hope?

A huge change happened at the end of last season, which viewers are seeing play out now: There is a man that's no longer in question about the good and the bad; they're both just as viable and have kept Rick and his family alive for the last two years. The moral dilemma in him is has been reduced hugely. He's still a father and loyal friend. He has all those attributes still in tact but he's also uncomplicated by the idea of eradicating a threat in front of him; he's not anchored by that anymore. Everything he has witnessed first-hand says to him that it's no longer important. That doesn't discount the fact that he's compassionate and feels just as deeply as he did before. There was certain decision-making that he's unfettered by anymore.

Like last season when he bit someone's neck and two seconds later calls Daryl (Norman Reedus) his brother.

Those incredibly brutal moments are flipped instantly because they're justified by an incredibly tender moment of true love between these two men, just going, "You're my brother." There's nothing stronger than he can say to another man apart from saying that. The best way to describe this season is in two songs, both by the Beatles: The first part of the season is "Helter Skelter," and the second half is "A Day in the Life." There's a lot of body blows that happen in the next few episodes and it turns into something completely different.

How would you describe Rick's relationship with Father Gabriel? What kind of a man is he?

Complicated. I've loved every scene we've got with him. Chris coy, Andrew as the story progresses, we have an incredible array of talent joining the show. That's been one of most coy plays those scenes with chad and the baby.

Read more Andrew Lincoln Explains Why He Shaved His 'Walking Dead' Beard

Beth (Emily Kinney) is still out there. Will Maggie (Lauren Cohan), Glenn and Daryl make it a point to search for her? She was taken by a car with a white cross on it, which seems like it could connect to Father Gabriel.

Interesting! Within the first eight episodes all those questions will be addressed and be dealt with. They may not fully be dealt with but the audience won't have to wait too long to find out.

Rick is now traveling with a few couples: Bob and Sasha, Glenn and Maggie and Abraham and Rosita (eventually). And he has a family with Carl, Judith andMichonne. Could there be any romance ahead for him?

I've always maintained that he's going to have to take a bath or shower before he even contemplates any relationship issues. Who knows!

What did you think of The Walking Dead premiere? Sound off in the comments below. Click here to see what executive producers Robert Kirkman and Scott M. Gimple had to say about it. Check out what Gimple had to say about that amazing post-credits scene and if [spoiler] will be back.

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