The Walking Dead Season 4: A Dangerous New World Awaits at Midseason Return

Gene Page/AMC

To say it’s been a rough zombie apocalypse for The Walking Dead’s Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) would be like saying the polar vortex is making things a little chilly. Over the last three and a half seasons, he has suffered the deaths of his wife and best friend and lost track of his infant daughter as well as the group of survivors he had sworn to protect. On a late-August day in Senoia, Georgia, while filming the midseason premiere, Lincoln limps onto the set of the AMC thriller covered in prosthetic cuts, bruises and fake blood — with a giant grin on his face.

“You should see the other guy,” Lincoln says with a laugh as he reinserts his bite plate to create the effect of a swollen jaw. That “other guy” would be the Governor (David Morrissey), who led an attack on Rick and his prison-dwelling community during December’s midseason finale. The hand-to-hand combat between the men left Rick physically shattered as he fled the prison’s ruins using his son, Carl (Chandler Riggs), as a literal crutch.

“They’ve gone through some horrible things, but now they’re going to have to get over that to survive,” says showrunner Scott Gimple. “The first half of the season wasn’t a picnic for them, but this is much more difficult survival than we’ve ever seen.”

But the pressure of the on-screen situation doesn’t faze the actors when the cameras stop rolling. After director Greg Nicotero calls “Cut!” on a particularly intense scene in which Carl attempts to wake an unconscious Rick, Riggs hovers over Lincoln with a worried expression. “You all right there, Andy?” he asks. “I shook you down a bit.” Lincoln wordlessly extends his bandaged right hand for a fist bump before feigning intense pain, causing both to break into laughter. “There are points in this half of the season that these characters actually do smile,” Gimple promises. “It isn’t all sunshine and gumdrops, but there is a great deal of stuff that feels hopeful.”