The Walking Dead Postmortem: Andrew Lincoln Previews 'Beginning of a New Chapter'

Rob Moynihan
Gene Page/AMC

The Walking Dead

Spoiler Alert: Stop reading if you have not yet watched Sunday's episode of The Walking Dead!

Have the ragged and road-weary survivors of The Walking Dead finally found a safe haven? Last week's arrival of outsider Aaron (Ross Marquand) signaled more danger in the vein of Terminus and Grady Memorial Hospital, but the clean-cut recruiter convinced the group to follow him to Alexandria, Virginia, a point of refuge familiar to fans of the show's comic-book source material. Aaron also tested Rick's (Andrew Lincoln) patience with newcomers and his ability to make the best possible decisions to ensure the safety of his people. We spoke to Lincoln about Rick's choices, what's next in Alexandria and the future of his "preposterous" beard.

Did Rick's initial violent reaction to Aaron surprise you?
I wasn't surprised at all, really. It felt like the punch was a reset. Why did we allow a stranger to walk into the barn and give ourselves away? Protocol had been broken, so let's restart everything. So when I read it, I laughed because it's funny, but think about it. Since the prison, everybody that they've met has been trying to hunt them, kill them or eat them—so to see a guy who is squeaky clean in all aspects, Rick is scared for his and his family's safety. They're still grieving. They just lost two of their closest, Tyreese and Beth, and a lot of that was because Rick listened to other people's choices and he backed down. It takes almost a mutiny to really pull this guy back in it.

Michonne (Danai Gurira) steps up and challenges Rick, calling his decision-making "dangerous." Does she have a point?
It's reckless, I don't think it's dangerous. The great thing about playing Rick at the moment is that he's still anchored by his friendships. He's not out there, spun out into orbit. There's the potential to still go there and if he goes to that place, it's going to be a terrifying proposition, but he's not. He is a democratic leader who will defer to experience or a good idea or a rational argument. I don't think he's a lone wolf yet. And he respects and regards Michonne beyond all else. She is a formidable warrior who has saved everyone's lives on countless occasions. She is a part of the family. So she has a fair argument, and I think that that public challenge could have caused a seismic havoc, but they're not like that. They're very respectful.

How would you describe Rick's relationship with Michonne?
Lincoln: I find it very moving and I love playing those scenes with Danai because even though there's a lot of static between these two, it's backed by intense respect and love. She sees that this guy is terrified of walking into another Terminus. They have a very touching last moment. He still can't bring himself to enter Alexandria, and she's there with him all the way with a gentle arm around his shoulder going, "I've got your back. Come on, I can see what you're going through."

What is it about Aaron that makes him different in Rick's eyes from people like Gareth or The Governor?
I think it's a combination of many things. He could have killed us and he decided not to. He saved us when we were on the run when the group splits up. There's an accumulation of evidence to support his case that just keeps happening throughout the episode. But Rick still doesn't think it's enough and when he gets to the gates, there's definitely a decision. The final push is that sound none of them have heard for two years: the laughter of children playing.

Even though Rick agrees to enter Alexandria, he still hides a gun outside the walls. Can he ever convince himself to feel safe or comfortable again?
I don't want to give too much away, but my personal position is no. The world has changed. The cool thing about Rick is that he's not nostalgic about the old world anymore, but he's very practical. This is the world as it stands, but we are equipped to deal with this world.

What can we expect now that the group has arrived in Alexandria?
For all of them, this is the beginning of a new chapter. It's different, scary, and uncomfortable. You really see the fallout from two years of living in this war zone. There's going to be conflict. There can't not be. There is posttraumatic stress. There are going to be problems with integration. What have we got left of our humanity?

How are the people in this community different than the ones we saw in Woodbury or Terminus?
There is a stark difference between these people's experience and everything else. You'll hear their stories instantly about what happened in D.C. It's captivating and fascinating. It's a very strange ride that we all go on over the next few episodes. But it doesn't take long for carnage to kick off. We don't stray too far from our show. All the familiar scrapes and thrills and spills are not too far outside the city walls.

I have to ask about your beard in this episode. Have we reached a point of maximum length?
[Showrunner] Scott Gimple called it "preposterous" while editing. He said the light was refracting to it, you can't get the camera around it. This was the point where executives went, "Um, we're gonna have to do something about the beard."

Is it safe to say that Rick will be discovering razors in Alexandria?
Lincoln: [Laughs] I think that could be happening, yeah. I was very fond of that beard and Norman Reedus still has it in his home. But there's always a chance to grow it back. I'm a hairy man—it doesn't take long to get it to grow on my face!