British actor Andrew Lincoln is known to most American audiences as that sensitive guy in “Love, Actually” who made women everywhere teary-eyed when he told Keira Knightley he loved her — with flash cards. Seven years later, Lincoln is back on American screens, but instead of sweet missives, he’s now wielding some massive zombie-slaying weapons as Sheriff Rick Grimes in the hotly anticipated new AMC series, “The Walking Dead.”
No offense, but it was shocking to learn you are British. The character of Rick Grimes is the personification of a true-grit American male.
For me, it’s kind of a liberation. You know me for one movie over here in America. But I’ve been working for 16 years! I really feel like I’m starting over again; that I get to prove my worth as an actor by taking this on.
Did you ever worry that you would break your Southern accent while filming?
It’s very interesting — the more emotion you put into it, the less you worry about it. Frank [Darabont, the series writer and producer] was good. He said, “Why don’t you stay in dialect all the time?” And it was good. I had a lot more things to worry about other than my accent — like fighting zombies.
What do you say to those who object to the massive amounts of violence in the series?
It was a concern of mine, but I think AMC has been brave [in letting it air]. The violence informs the brutality of the world and is an unflinching look at the humanity in all of this. The opening scene is very graphic, but it lets the viewer know the rules of this new world — now get used to it.
So, any tips for our readers on what to do in a zombie apocalypse?
Oh, I would be useless. I would be the first person under the table.
Well, a giant arsenal like Rick gets definitely helps.
Always, always! My goodness — a huge bag of guns is essential. But that’s why this is such a dream role, to play someone so radically different from me — the iconic hero man. I read a line that said a hero is a man who does what he can, and it really informed me to who this man was. He is, at his core, this ordinary man in an extraordinary world.
“Walking Dead” premieres Sunday at 10 p.m. on AMC.