'The Walking Dead's' Andrew Lincoln: Rick's 'Repressing His Demons'

How long can Rick take a back seat with the group? The star of AMC's zombie drama weighs in.
Gene Page/AMC
"The Walking Dead's" Andrew Lincoln

AMC's The Walking Dead returned for its fourth season with a roar last week, as a new threat from within the walls of the prison is poised to wreak havoc on the group of survivors.

The new threat -- led by zombie Patrick -- comes as the group's formerly fearless leader Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) has turned over a new leaf to become Farmer Rick, the low-key focused father of two who has forsaken his position in favor of a safe routine in his bid to be a proper caretaker to son Carl and baby daughter Judith.

But how long can Rick remain in his passive role, especially since the newly formed council -- including rock star Daryl -- has urged the former sheriff to pick up his gun again and be a part of the community's new pseudo-government?

The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Lincoln to discuss Farmer Rick's new approach to living in the deadly zombie-filled world, keeping Carl from following in the Governor's (David Morrissey) footsteps and what he and Michonne have in common.  

STORY: 'Walking Dead' Cast, Creators on Season 4's Key Changes, Challenges

Rick has taken a very passive approach with the community in a bid to further protect his children. How long will he remain so uninvolved?

That's the internal background for a lot of the first half of this season and very much the story of the show. You're being pulled one way and you don't want to be outside the walls [of the prison]. Rick's responsibilities are, first and foremost, for his two children. That's what he's realized and that's why he's renounced leadership. He's not part of the council. He doesn't even get involved in [supply] runs anymore. He's renounced the brutality of the world for the sake of his children. Because of the pressure that's been put on the group in a very new and smart way, the group is splitting and getting paranoid and worried. And Rick is once again getting pulled right back into the center of things. You'll see in episode three -- it's "Oh, my god!"

There's a new threat inside the prison now that Patrick has turned. How will he step up?

He's a retired cop getting ready to get back to business, I suppose. (Laughs.) I love putting that gun back on, but it's heartbreaking as well because he eventually has to give that gun back to his son, something that is yet again a semi-failure. I'm very interested in the dynamic of the boy becoming a man and the father accepting that.

At the end of season three, Carl was going down a very dark path toward becoming a mini-Governor. How will Rick work to ensure his son doesn't follow that dark road?

I think he's redressed a lot of that in the intervening months [between seasons three and four]. Rick has been a hard but fair father, and he's been present in Carl's [Chandler Riggs] life. They've got a routine; they get up in the mornings before sunrise. When people are in shock, a routine is vital, and that's what Rick has been doing. This is normalcy. You go to your lessons. But at lesson time, someone's [Carol] teaching people how to stab. It's never going to be the world that it was once before. That's the internal struggle: Can you hold on to what was before? Or can you learn from him who's being created by his environment?

PHOTOS: 'The Walking Dead's' Most Shocking Deaths

Rick is still grappling with Lori and Andrea's deaths, and Michonne is still going out looking for the Governor in a bid to avenge her friend's death. Is Rick worried about her?

Rick has realized that Michonne [Danai Gurira] is incredibly self-sufficient, but he's saddened by the fact that she still doesn't want to integrate. She's still a loner. That's a regret that Rick, maybe Daryl [Norman Reedus] and everyone else shares. That, "Please, come back, let it go, she's gone" approach.

She's isolating herself the same way "Farmer Rick" is.

He is, but Hershel [Scott Wilson] is hugely important in this. He's become a mentor, a guide and a confidant in a new way for Rick, who is repressing his demons. He's healing and he's been healing the last six months since his breakdown and losing his wife. It's baby steps but he's doing a good job of it. He's trying to make it work and trying to believe in Hershel's way and that you can trust again: You can love and you can grow things and nurture things.

PHOTOS: Inside 'The Walking Dead's' Spooky Season 4 Premiere

How will the newly formed council handle Rick when -- and if -- he is ready to return to a position of leadership?

More and more you realize that Daryl is their voice of reason through all this. He realized that they're weakened because Rick isn't there. The first episode is a testament to that; they lose a person. There are young kids on that mission [in the department store]. They probably wouldn't have lost [Beth's boyfriend] if Rick had been there -- if they had more people of Daryl's caliber. Daryl respects Rick's decision, which I love, but he's still pressuring Rick that the group needs him. Every scene that we play is like, "I respect it, but you've got to come back. We need you now more than ever."

The Walking Dead airs on Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC. Hit the comments below with your thoughts on if you think Rick can return to his leadership position. Stay tuned to THR's The Live Feed for our weekly Walking Dead dissection after every episode.  

E-mail: Lesley.Goldberg@THR.com
Twitter: @Snoodit