‘Walking Dead’ star dishes on shocking Season 4 finale
Rick, Michonne and Carl flee a herd of walkers in the fourth season finale of “The Walking Dead.”
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If you’re setting your TiVo or DVR to record the Season 4 finale of AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” be sure to give yourself a several-minute cushion at the end, because you do not want to miss the very last line of the episode.
The Post spoke to Andrew Lincoln, who plays the survivors’ unofficial leader, Rick Grimes, as well as executive producer Greg Nicotero, and learned that the very last line of this game-changing season will change the game yet again, launching the first season-ending cliff-hanger in the show’s history.
“Traditionally, when we [end a season], it has a wrap-up,” says Nicotero. “At the end of Season 2, we saw the prison. At the end of Season 3, we saw them bringing people from Woodbury to the prison. It all had this resolve to it. In this episode, there’s a line that a character says, the last line of the episode, that’s probably the first time we ended [a season] on a ‘what’s gonna happen next?’ moment.”
But based on what Lincoln and Nicotero shared with us, that’s not the biggest shock in store tonight.
According to Lincoln, something happens to Rick that, even accounting for the deaths of his wife and (he believes) his infant daughter, will be the most brutal thing he has endured in the show’s history.
Andrew Lincoln on set — still in the prison — in an episode earlier this season.
“My car explodes if I say anything [more],” jokes the British actor, before finding a way to open up without revealing more than he should.
“I will say that something happens in the finale that when I read it, I called Scott Gimple, the showrunner, because we’ve always been incredibly responsible with the violence in this show. And I just wanted to ask, ‘Is this a step too far?’”
For some fans of the show, though, the prospect of any action at all will be welcome.
This year, AMC divided Season 4 into eight-episode halves, and each episode featured only a few survivors; ultimately, none of the cast appeared in more than half the episodes.
For Lincoln, this format afforded him time to spend with his family. Once shooting began without him, though, he quickly changed his tune.
“I got incredibly bored and wanted to be back on set, so I don’t think I was much comfort to my family,” says Lincoln, 40, who lives on a farm just outside of London with his wife, Gael Anderson (daughter of Jethro Tull singer Ian Anderson) and their two kids, Matilda, 6, and Arthur, 4. “I missed the shoot. I missed being on set.”
As for the story format itself, while some disagree — New York magazine headlined one of its recent weekly recaps of the show, “Man, The Walking Dead is Boring This Season” — Lincoln believes that the slower pace helped flesh out the show’s characters.
Episode 14, in which Carol (Melissa McBride) was forced to kill a young girl, is a case in point. “You think it’s one thing, then it turns that inside out and rips your heart out. It’s astonishingly bold,” says Lincoln.
“There is a necessity to make this an action-packed thrill ride, but you need to do the footwork in character development and story to earn those rewards. There has to be light and shade, otherwise it would be the other way around — is it too bloodthirsty, is it too gory, is it too action-packed? Where’s the character development?”
While Lincoln has enjoyed reading the scripts to see where the show was headed, he let The Post in on a surprising fact about him and “The Walking Dead.” Despite being its star, Lincoln has never seen even one episode of the show that has made him a very recognizable man.
“I hear it’s very good,” jokes Lincoln, who prefers not to watch himself act, and therefore hasn’t in 15 years.
“It’s not an enjoyable experience for me,” he says. “After working for about eight years, I realized that watching myself made me self-conscious. So I stopped.”
(Lincoln has been asked to provide DVD commentary for Episode 14, so he will soon watch his show for the first time. Of the other pop culture touchstone Lincoln was in — the polarizing 2003 Christmas film, “Love Actually,” in which he played a man in love with his best friend’s wife — Lincoln attended the premiere, but says he “watched the other stories but kept my head down during mine, like a weirdo.”)
But while Lincoln may have a short embarrassment fuse, he’s not above toying with others — namely, his castmate Norman Reedus, who plays the show’s hardened country boy, Daryl Dixon.
When Lincoln and Reedus recently flew to Tokyo for show promotion, Lincoln engineered a prank where a fan with one arm and no legs — Nick Santonastasso, 17, a Vine star thanks to pranks where he scares people while made up like a zombie — hid in a room-service cart in full zombie makeup, then jumped out to scare Reedus.
“My big concern is that I’ve started a war. It’s on,” says Lincoln. “I’m living in fear — not that I’m gonna get killed [on the show], but I fear Norman’s wrath more than anything else. Every moment that is not a prank, he’s planning one.”
As Lincoln keeps looking over his shoulder, though, Rick’s harsher realities illustrate why Lincoln loves this show overall and tonight’s finale in particular, in their demonstrations of how resilient people can be in even the toughest of circumstances.
“The extraordinary thing about human beings is their capacity to heal in real life, and that’s the greatest story we’re telling,” Lincoln says.
“The thing that happens [tonight addresses] that question of, can we ever come back, and can we ever be the same people we once were. Certainly, [the question of] how Rick lives from this point onwards is resolved.”