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The Untold Truth Of The Walking Dead's Andrew Lincoln

Over the past 11 years, Andrew Lincoln has become one of the most recognizable actors in the world. His portrayal of Rick Grimes in AMC's "The Walking Dead" has been a driving factor in the show's meteoric success. Lincoln wholeheartedly focused his efforts into making the character and the show as good as possible, and that work has paid sizable dividends.

Even before "The Walking Dead," Lincoln was a remarkable success. The classically-trained actor spent much of his early career on the stage. When he stepped away from theater, he found himself a part of "This Life" and "Teachers," two incredibly popular British sitcoms. Lincoln kept a balance of screen and stage acting in his life so he could constantly sharpen his talents while building his career.

When he's not working on crafting characters and stories, Lincoln is a dedicated family man who shies away from fame by living under his real name, Andrew Clutterbuck. The world already knows Rick Grimes pretty well, so this is the untold truth of the man who brought him to life.

Lincoln has a love for fiction classics

One might expect that a man who's largely built his career around a comic book adaptation would be a huge comics fan. With Andrew Lincoln, that isn't exactly the case — he's much more interested in literature and fiction classics. He told The Scotsman back in 2010 that one of his favorite books is Albert Camus's "The Outsider." There's not likely to be a Camus adaptation for Lincoln to star in anytime soon, but he has gotten the opportunity to bring some of his other favorite novels to life.

In 2009, Lincoln appeared alongside Charlotte Riley and Tom Hardy in ITV's "Wuthering Heights." It just so happens that Lincoln had long ties to that particular story. He revealed to The Guardian in 2014 that as a young boy he would read Emily Brontë's novel to his maternal grandmother. "I remember [my grandmother] being very enthusiastic about me going into acting," he recalls. Lincoln's love of classic storytelling and characters has always informed his acting style and choices in roles. He strives to bring a deeper sense of humanity to the screen whenever he can, even while smashing zombie heads to bits.

He's a classically trained theater actor

In spite of its pulpy content and comic book origins, "The Walking Dead" has a tendency to attract classically-trained actors, and Andrew Lincoln is no exception. The London-born actor trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts after being bitten by the theater bug when he was cast as The Artful Dodger in his school's production of "Oliver!" at age 14.

His very first paid acting job was on the stage, and before making his debut on television, this was where he exclusively spent his time. Even after becoming a television star, Lincoln tried to take on theater roles whenever he could. He made it a personal rule to take a theater job once every three years. "For me it's about maintaining a passion and enthusiasm for what I do. The more I mix it up, the easier that is."

When Lincoln's agent brought him the pilot script for "The Walking Dead," Lincoln was hesitant to jump into something so far removed from his background. He explained his reaction in an interview with The Rake, saying, "I called my agent and said, 'Are you f***ing kidding me? I am a classically trained actor and you sent me zombies?'" Lincoln's agent convinced him to read the script, and when the shrewd actor saw the caliber of the writing, he decided to audition right away.

He got his big break from British sitcoms

Andrew Lincoln has enjoyed a charmed career from his very early days. He graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in 1994, and just months later he made his television debut on an episode of the Channel 4 sitcom "Drop the Dead Donkey." Then, barely a year after finishing his education, he landed his breakthrough television role as Edgar "Egg" Cook on "This Life," which follows the lives of five young law graduates sharing a house in south London. Lincoln said landing a role on the BBC2 drama was one of the moments in his career that made him "scream out loud."

"This Life" was Lincoln's first stepping stone to fame. The show ran for two seasons and slowly gained popularity over the years and went on to become a cult classic. After departing the series, Lincoln returned to Channel 4 for his next major television role, portraying Simon Casey in "Teachers" from 2001 to 2004. "This Life" gave Lincoln his big break, but "Teachers" cemented him as a definite success.

Lincoln always wanted to work in America

Andrew Lincoln may have gotten his start in his birth country, but he always had his eyes set on coming to America. He told The Guardian, "I've always wanted to work in America because of those brilliant east-coast political movies of the '70s and '80s — great scripts, wonderful performances, gritty urban parable." Some of his favorite movies are American dramas like "The Godfather" and "Serpico." Lincoln finally got his opportunity to hop across the pond when he was offered a role in "The Walking Dead," but he was hesitant to uproot his wife and two children. He credits Jack Davenport, who worked with him on "This Life," with convincing him to make the leap by telling him, "Come over here. The water's warm."

Lincoln made the right decision, not just for his career and fans, but also for his acting abilities. "I think I improved as an actor working in America," he told Collider, citing the benefits of "working at the scale that ["The Walking Dead"] was on and working with really, really fine filmic actors in America." Lincoln truly upped his game in front of the camera while working on the AMC series. He had the support of fellow actors, of course, but Lincoln also made it a personal goal to improve season after season.

He goes to extreme lengths to get into character

Andrew Lincoln isn't a method actor, but he does borrow some tactics from the method acting playbook. When a new season of "The Walking Dead" is in production, Lincoln speaks in his character's southern accent on and off set. "My wife and children think I'm bananas," Lincoln told The Guardian. "It's very unsettling for them because they don't know who they're talking to."

Lincoln is also known for doing some bizarre things, like singing aloud and rolling on the ground, to get worked up for an emotional scene. He explained his process to The New York Times, saying, "If there's 200 people watching me have to pull my guts out because my wife has just been eaten by a zombie, I can do it one way, which is a tear stick, and look sexy and be beautifully shot. Or I could try and scare myself into a different space." Lincoln clearly isn't shy about doing what it takes to bring genuine emotion into a scene. 

His strange behavior pays off in the show, but his fellow stars jokingly bemoan how crazy and "uncoordinated" Lincoln can get. On The Tonight Show, Norman Reedus recalled a conversation with Jeffrey Dean Morgan the day before the actor filmed a fight scene between his character, Negan, and Lincoln. Morgan predicted at the time, "He's gonna drink a lot of coffee and get super excited — he's going to punch me in the face." Sure enough, Lincoln threw a wild punch and accidentally landed it.

He purposely avoided taking other roles while on The Walking Dead

During his tenure on the show, Andrew Lincoln channeled his acting abilities almost exclusively into "The Walking Dead." He suspended his quota of one stage performance every three years, and he didn't take on any other shows or films, despite getting plenty of offers.

The simple answer to why Lincoln avoided roles outside of "The Walking Dead" is that he didn't have the time. When he started the show, his wife had recently given birth to their second child, and having a family shifted Lincoln's priorities. Lincoln said in an interview, "I was going to do a play and it would have meant me getting off a plane from America and going straight to rehearsals, doing the play, getting back on the plane and going straight back to America." That's fine for a single actor, but Lincoln said his most absolute first priority "when [he's] not slaying zombies is being a parent."

Lincoln also wanted to avoid being typecast as an action-horror hero. He explained to Collider that "unfortunately what you have to do is you have to change people's perceptions of what you're able to do as an actor." He didn't want to take any roles too similar to Rick Grimes because he knew it would lock him into a particular genre forever.

Privacy and family are more important to Lincoln than fame

His face may appear on television screens in over 125 different countries, but Andrew Lincoln is a man who still appreciates his privacy. When he's back home with his family, in fact, he isn't really "Andrew Lincoln" at all. In real life, he goes by his birth name of Andrew Clutterbuck. "Everything in my life is Clutterbuck. So I can fly under the radar," he explains. Everything from his credit cards to his hotel reservations are under this significantly lesser-known surname — something that once almost cost Lincoln a hotel stay in Los Angeles when the concierge didn't believe he was giving his "real" name.

The disconnect between Lincoln's on-screen persona and his real life also helps him focus on his family when he isn't acting. Lincoln expanded on his simple philosophy for dividing his time by saying, "Work is work time, then I come home." When he's not on camera, "it's family first." While working on "The Walking Dead" in 2016, Lincoln spent roughly eight months of the year slaying zombies in Georgia, so when filming wrapped, he travelled back to the Cotswolds where he made it a goal to "try to be as present as [he] can be" for his wife, his children, and even his friends.

Andrew Lincoln has never watched a single episode of The Walking Dead

Andrew Lincoln might be the world's most dedicated fan of "The Walking Dead," but that doesn't mean he watches the show. In fact, Lincoln has never seen an episode. When asked why he avoids the show, Lincoln told TV Insider, "I am allergic to my own face." According to an interview Lincoln gave to The Rake, his self-aversion applies to every single one of his on-screen performances. Lincoln said that in 15 years, he's never watched a show or movie starring himself because "it's just not an enjoyable experience."

His reasoning goes beyond being uncomfortable watching himself. Lincoln also believes it's not really useful for him as an actor to watch his own performances. "I don't want to reference myself," he elaborated, adding, "I don't like looking at myself because I don't want to have that repetition." Lincoln doesn't want to have a sense of how his past performances looked on screen because he always wants to push himself to evolve as an actor. He believes that if he watched every episode of "The Walking Dead," Rick Grimes would eventually become a caricature of himself. So, in a way, Lincoln forgoes watching the show for the benefit of its fans.

He regrets the way The Walking Dead handled Glenn's death

"The Walking Dead" has had an impressive and successful run in the grand scheme of things. Like any other show, however, it's had some ups and downs. Audiences and critics have been quick to point out the show's missteps in the past, but have any of those complaints come across Andrew Lincoln's radar? Along with not watching the show, Lincoln avoids most of the reviews, but that doesn't mean he agrees with every scene that makes it to air.

Lincoln told The New York Times that he regrets Glenn's death and the departure of Steven Yeun from the show. It was painful for him to lose a friend on set that he'd had since the beginning, but more than that, Lincoln disagrees with the way the show handled Glenn's gruesome demise. He explained, "We've been able to terrify people in film for 100 years without having to show an eyeball." Lincoln felt that the extreme violence of Glenn's death undercut the larger message of "The Walking Dead": He views the show as "a family drama set in hell," and he hopes that audiences walk away from their screens feeling more optimistic about humanity after watching it. Lincoln said that if he'd been directing the scene, the camera would have stayed on Maggie's face when Lucille took Glenn out.

Lincoln left The Walking Dead to focus on his family

From the very beginning of "The Walking Dead," Rick Grimes was the center of the story. The show's cast constantly rotated, but if there ever was a solid protagonist, it was Andrew Lincoln's post-apocalyptic sheriff. In the comics, Rick Grimes survived till nearly the end of the story, meeting his end in the penultimate issue, #192. Rick's ongoing survival at times stretched a bit beyond believability, but his presence helped to keep the story on the rails.

Over on AMC, "The Walking Dead" didn't have the same luxury. As production on Season 9 approached, Andrew Lincoln decided that it was time for him to somewhat reluctantly step away from the show. He had a very simple reason for leaving: "I have two young children, and I live in a different country, and they become less portable as they get older," he said. Lincoln and his wife had their second child just before the beginning of "The Walking Dead." After years of spending the majority of his time away from his home in England so he could film the show, Lincoln thought, "It was time for me to come home."

Leading up to his exit, Lincoln was careful to say that he was leaving "the TV show" and not departing the world of "The Walking Dead" altogether, so even before the Rick Grimes films were announced, fans suspected that they'd see him again in one form or another.

He thinks leaving The Walking Dead was a mistake

It didn't take long for Andrew Lincoln to regret his decision to leave "The Walking Dead." He knew that he would miss Georgia, his friends there, and even his regular workday, but he had no idea just how much. In December 2020, a little over two years after Lincoln left the show, the cast of "The Walking Dead" held a virtual reunion fundraiser. While talking with his former cast members, Lincoln joked about what a terrible decision it was for him to leave.

"I came back home for the kids, and now they're sick of me, and I wish I'd never left," he said, adding with a laugh, "It's bulls**t! It was a terrible decision." Lincoln misses Georgia, a place that he "fell in love with" after having no idea what to expect when he visited for the first time.

It seems he's not the only member of his family who misses the South. Lincoln revealed during the reunion, "Arthur — my 10-year-old son — won't let me take a job unless it's in Georgia now! He dismisses it. He goes, 'Take me back there!'" Luckily for everyone, Lincoln's days away from Georgia are definitely numbered.

He's very hands-on with the Rick Grimes movies

By now, everyone knows that Rick Grimes will be returning for not just one, but three films based in "The Walking Dead" universe. Andrew Lincoln was pivotal in getting the film projects started before he left the show in 2018. Lincoln told Entertainment Weekly that leading up to his exit from "The Walking Dead," he spoke with the show's chief content officer, Scott Gimple, asking him, "What do you think about doing a film? A two-hour contained story, a continuation."

Lincoln had always been interested in "what's been happening in the rest of America" during the apocalypse, and he hoped that a film could explore the larger story taking place in the world of "The Walking Dead." He describes the film as being "akin to the [Clint Eastwood] movie 'Unforgiven'" that opens with the gunslinger in a low point and builds him back up to the hero his audience knows he is.

Lincoln and Gimple had several conversations about the film before Lincoln returned to England. The coronavirus pandemic delayed the project, but Lincoln offered some updates in an interview with SFX Magazine in April 2021. He said that the first screenplay was being worked on meticulously because "we need to get the first one absolutely right." He didn't offer a timeline for when the film would begin shooting, but he assured fans that he "can't wait to get those cowboy boots."