The hit AMC drama series The Walking Dead returns for season three, with higher stakes, more threatening human villains and, of course, plenty of zombies. When things pick back up, Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his fellow survivors continue to seek refuge, this time in an abandoned prison, but soon discover that there are greater forces to fear than just the walking dead. The struggle to survive has never been so perilous, especially considering that Rick’s wife, Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies), is close to the due date of her pregnancy. Based on the comic book series written by Robert Kirkman, the show also stars Laurie Holden, Steven Yeun, Norman Reedus, Chandler Riggs, Lauren Cohan, Scott Wilson, IronE Singleton, Melissa McBride, Danai Gurira and David Morrissey.
At the show’s press day, co-stars Andrew Lincoln and Sarah Wayne Callies talked about where the relationship between Rick and Lori is at now, the dynamic with their son Carl (Riggs) this season, how different the philosophies are of both Rick and The Governor (Morrissey), and what it was like to shoot the entire opening sequence with no dialogue. Check out what they had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
ANDREW LINCOLN: Well, we jump forward in time, which is a great thing because it puts that time bomb [in the forefront]. We are in the worst place we’ve been, pre-apocalypse. I think it’s caused this possibly irrevocable rift between the two of them, although there is some movement. Certainly in the first few episodes, they’re trying, for the sake of the group and themselves, to heal this rift.
SARAH WAYNE CALLIES: It’s a situation that I don’t think they would ever try to recover from, were it not for the fact that it’s the end of the world and everyone else they know is dead. Last season, people were always asking, “Why doesn’t Lori just kick Shane out of the group?,” and my answer was always, “There are only three people alive who knew her, six weeks ago. You can’t overestimate the power of that.” Now, Shane (Jon Bernthal) is gone, and Rick and Lori grew up together. We’ve been together since high school. Were it not for the end of the world, we would just go our separate ways and go, “There’s been too much pain and too much loss.” At this point, you go, “I can’t bring myself to leave. I can’t bring myself to look at you. I don’t know where that leaves us.” And we’ve been festering in that, for months.
LINCOLN: We made a conscious decision not to make eye contact, just because every time we look at each other, it burns with the guilt and shame of what’s happened. It’s that thing with having history. The Road was the important book for this season. Last season, it was Lonesome Dove, for me. They’re starting to forget the past. Words mean less. That’s why holding onto your history means everything, in this apocalypse. So, I think they have to make it work.
WAYNE CALLIES: What’s gone wrong between them is not that I told him to watch his back and he killed Shane. I think we were both very clearly on the same page that that had to happen. In some ways, that was a big success. I warned my husband that someone was going to try to kill him, he tried to kill him, and the right man came out of the fight. But then, he tells me that he wanted him dead and I recoil from him, instead of embracing him and making him feel safe. That’s one of the things I love about the way this marriage has been written. This is not a couple that’s pissed off because she had an affair and he killed the guy. That’s the obvious version. This is a couple that’s heartbroken because she’s afraid that he has turned into Shane by killing him. He needed her, in that moment, to just say, “You’re a good man. I forgive you and I love you.” And she instead backed off. When we shot it, I spat in his face, but they cut it.
LINCOLN: They didn’t go for that. That’s why I don’t watch [the show]. I wanted the spit.
LINCOLN: I don’t know. That was one of the things that attracted me to the role. He goes on this extraordinary journey that’s a deterioration or huge change, because of the environment and everything that happens to him. But, I think it’s all of the characters. It’s not just [Rick]. How do you describe the alchemy? I really wish I knew. All I know is that, when we film it, it’s the same crew that’s worked on it all three years, and they are magnificent. They care about this. Everybody is a huge fan. They get the scripts and peel them open, just as voraciously as we do. They can’t wait. They want to tell this really great story with these amazingly complicated but true characters. It reminds me of an old western. It reminds me of The Magnificent Seven. It’s got these old ideas and morals and archetypes within it, but then they invert it and go against the norm. I suppose, if you’re doing serialized TV, you want to keep surprising the audience. I know that they sit in the writers’ room going, “What do we do next?”
WAYNE CALLIES: It is a part of what works on our show, but it’s more than just our show. I was watching the Emmys, the other night, and people kept talking about this Golden Age of television. What serialized cable dramas have given us is the opportunity to not simply tell the same story with slightly different words and different costumes, every week. I think about something like Breaking Bad, and the evolution of that character is enormous. With Mad Men, there’s the evolution of that character. What’s happening in television right now is that people are really mining the ability of storytellers to tell a long form story that goes from A to Z, and to trust that an audience will follow that. If they miss it, over the course of the week, they can watch it online or buy the DVD. There are so many different ways of interacting with it. Storytelling in television is getting more complex and more nuanced.
LINCOLN: You reward the audience by laying something in the first season that you can reveal in a third season, and have people go, “Oh, that’s because of that!,” and it’s a beautiful thing. For a writer, what a great opportunity.
Do you think that Lori is just trying to make things work with Rick, or does she really support his actions?
WAYNE CALLIES: I think what Lori is very clear on is that her husband is the right man to lead them. Whatever he needs from her, to be a better leader, is what she will give him. In Season 1 and Season 2, there was a lot of, “I don’t know if this is the right call. I think you should stay here.” What I saw was that discordance between us caused him to second-guess himself and there were a lot of challenges there. And I think she’s taking a new tact, which is not stand by your man, no matter what, but to trust the man to handle the individual decisions and not get too involved in the minutiae of it. I think they’ve divided this world and she’s saying, “You handle what’s out there. I’ll handle what’s in here.”
LINCOLN: The beautiful thing is that Lori doesn’t want to be a burden, at any cost. She’s got a baby. This is the worst pressure that we could possibly have. But, Sarah made this fantastic choice, as an actress, to say, “I’m going to put no burden on you. You’re going to get none of that.” She knows how fucked we are. He’s Job, this dude. He’s testing himself. The fundamental difference between him and The Governor (David Morrissey) is the burden of responsibility and guilt that he carries. I wouldn’t want to speak for another actor, but I’m not sure that The Governor carries that. I think he sees the world for what it is, and it’s more of a nihilistic view. He just says, “This is the new world now,” he’s able to detach himself from it. I’m not. Everything costs this guy, and [Lori] realizes that. It’s an incredibly generous thing to do, after all this, to go, “I trust you. It’s fine. It’s all taken care of. You just do what you need to do. Make us safe.”
How is the dynamic with Carl (Chandler Riggs), this season?
LINCOLN: His story is the story I’m most fascinated by, this year.
WAYNE CALLIES: It’s complicated. I think Carl is probably the most affected by the rift between Rick and Lori, out of everyone else. Children are so adaptable and they really can adapt themselves to almost any circumstance, except for the divorce of their parents or the death of a parent. I think there is something to be said for the fact that nothing that has happened – killing Shane as a zombie, feeling responsible for Dale’s (Jeffrey DeMunn) death, seeing Sophia (Madison Lintz) die – has been harder on Carl than seeing his parents effectively separate, which is more or less what’s happened. I think his journey, this season, is a very, very complicated one. Whether Rick can ever bring himself to forgive Lori, and Lori forgive Rick, those are mature questions. Carl is handling them as a boy soldier who has one little box for his emotions, that he shoves them into and slams the lid on, and then arms himself to deal with this world. And Chandler does that beautifully, with a level of nuance in his work that’s terrifying.
LINCOLN: Watch out for the kid, this season. He is amazing! I am convinced he is a 48-year-old.
WAYNE CALLIES: What I love about these two is they love each other, at a cellular level. Lori does not know who she would be without Rick in her life. At a certain level, everything they are doing, they’re doing for a lot of reasons, but they’re doing them for each other. I worked that hard to save Hershel (Scott Wilson) because I don’t want to think about what happens to Rick, if he loses Hershel. I don’t want to think about what that will do to him. He finds the prison, so that I don’t have to worry about that baby. It’s this weird Gift of the Magi thing between them. “I can’t look at you. I can’t talk to you. I’m so ashamed that I’m heartbroken. But, I will kill myself to make sure that you don’t have to be in pain.” I so want a happy ending for them. I want this series to end with them in the back of a convertible, off to the Bahamas. I don’t think that’s going to happen, [but I want] rainbows and ponies.
LINCOLN: The book The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien, is a brilliant novel about the Vietnam War. It’s magnificent because it’s exactly what this feels like. Everybody hasn’t got time to process what’s happening, but I do think there will come a time when they do have to deal with the shockwave of the daily trauma that they live through.
WAYNE CALLIES: If the prison was perfectly safe, and we could close the doors and there was a 10-year supply of food, and we grew gardens and everything was fine, and unicorns and ponies were running through the halls, these people would still have a long road of pain and healing and grief ahead of them, that they haven’t even scratched the surface of because they haven’t slept two nights in the same place, in six of eight months. When you layer on top of that, here comes The Governor, things just keep getting thicker and thicker.
The first two seasons showed the different philosophies between Shane and Rick. How similar and how different are Rick and The Governor?
LINCOLN: We will be shot, if we answer that. Last season was the enemy within the group, and now this is the enemy outside. It certainly a way of opening out the story, which is magnificent, and it gives a broader landscape for us to tell bigger stories. That other civilization has had time to process things, a little bit. They’re further down the line, somewhat, so they have different issues and they have different needs. We’re still very much hand-to-mouth. We’re like drowning rats.
WAYNE CALLIES: Things have gotten worse for us, if anything, since Hershel’s farm.
WAYNE CALLIES: The first two seasons had this battle between Rick and Shane, and which vision was going to work and which man was going to prevail. In a way, what you get with The Governor is two fully matured visions. It’s two leaders who have enacted their policies, and the cultures that they’ve created. It’s a similar theme as Rick and Shane. If Shane had gone off and had his own culture, and been fully armed and gotten to do whatever he wanted to do, maybe a few months later, it would be like this, when these two meet.
How difficult was it to shoot the opening sequence of the first episode back, where no one spoke?
LINCOLN: I just think that our world has become more silent, and that’s a terrifying thing. By necessity, we’ve become this telepathic group. This family is a tight group because we’ve had to become one organism, otherwise we die or we weaken. Just talking about the two different dynamics of leadership, Rick will always be as strong as his weakest link. That’s who he is. Equally, one of his greatest strengths is his family. His driving force is his family, but it’s his greatest weakness, as well.
WAYNE CALLIES: I think it’s actually a device that harkens back to the pilot. The pilot had huge swaths of silence. The danger of a show like this is that you get lost in the guns and the zombies. Having those moments and those scenes is horrifying. It’s really cool.
LINCOLN: There’s an episode that we’ve just shot that’s absolutely magnificent because of the change in tone. It’s very much like the pilot, and it was so exciting to do because it was so familiar. We get the opportunity to just go somewhere else, in this show.
WAYNE CALLIES: You have to do that, every now and again. You have to carve out those moments of silence.
The Walking Dead airs on Sunday nights on AMC.