The following story contains massive spoilers from Sunday’s The Walking Dead. If you have yet to watch the episode, hit the nearest exit.
Walking Dead leading man Andrew Lincoln literally screamed when he found out the show was finally pulling the trigger on a Rick-Michonne romance. Although Lincoln says co-star Danai Gurira “had an inkling” producers were heading in an intimate direction with the characters, the actor maintains that he “had no idea.”
Below, Lincoln opens up about how he first learned that love would blossom between the “two warriors,” reveals what he and Gurira did to prepare for Sunday’s big love scene and teases the obstacles that threaten to stand in the way of their “burgeoning, beautiful romance.”
TVLINE | When and how did you find out that this was happening?
Danai had been acting weird in the makeup trailer a few days before [the episode started shooting]. The midseason premiere was quite busy for me, so I hadn’t had a chance to read the script for [Episode 10] yet. She was just acting weird and bashful and kind of shy [around me]. And I was like, “What is wrong with you? Why are you not talking to me?” And she said, “Have you read it yet?” And I said, “What are you talking about?” And she said, “Have you read [Episode 10]?” And at that point I had only read through Act 3, so I said, “Yes, it’s great. The episode is tonally very different. It’s funny and light.” And she said, “No, have you gotten to the final scene.” And I said, “No.” And then, of course, I [went back and] read it and I just screamed. I ran to [her] trailer and I said, “What?! Why didn’t you tell me!” And she said, “I couldn’t! I was freaking out!”
TVLINE | Once the shock wore off, how did you feel about their coupling from a creative standpoint?
It was amazing. Certainly, people have been waiting for so long for this to happen. When we [shot it] we wanted it to have a feeling like these two great friends just looked at each other and realized, “Of course.” It was just natural… And Michonne has been a mother figure and best friend to Carl for so long. And she saved Rick’s life and Carl’s life on countless occasions. There’s something rather moving about these two warriors getting together.
TVLINE | How did you and Danai prepare for the scene? You’ve worked together for years, but never on this intimate a level.
You kind of hold hands, walk to the edge of the cliff and jump — and continue holding hands. It’s that thing where you just trust someone. I’ve been working alongside the brilliant, bright and superbly talented Danai Gurira for three-and-a-half years now. I’ve admired and respected her as a workmate. Also, it is part of the job description. It’s there in the small print, Michael. [Laughs] This is what we’re paid to do. Fortunately, I got such an amazing and beautiful leading lady… But it is unusual and it is strange.
My only reticence is that I hope people realize there was a six-week-to-two-month time jump [since last week’s episode]. When I read it, it jarred me a little bit coming on the back of [Jessie’s death]. But Jessie was vastly important in opening up a side of Rick that was shut down since Lori’s death. And this is an evolution of that. Jessie was a valuable [part] of him exploring that side of himself.
TVLINE | You mentioned that it’s in the job description, but romance and happiness rarely come into play on The Walking Dead. Was it refreshing to be able to play those beats on such a dark, violent show?
Yes. It was. And all the stuff with [Rick and Daryl] in this episode was a hoot. We had such fun. It was just a completely different energy on set. The crew was quite amused by it, as well. But it felt natural. And I think [showrunner] Scott [Gimple]’s intention was to give people a glimpse into a potential civilization. What could be. What are we fighting for if you can’t fall in love? If you can’t have humor and laughter again? That’s hopefully what this episode was about. These are whole people who can laugh and can live again… Also, you guys — the audience deserves a little bit of a break.
TVLINE | Yes, we do!
To be fully committed as a fan to this show is, sometimes, a matter of endurance. And I commend you all. [Laughs] It’s an amazing commitment. Because you do suffer alongside the characters. If you love a character that gets killed, it’s agony.
TVLINE | That morning-after overhead shot of Rick and Michonne laying in bed was very artful. How much discussion was there about the placement of your hands and legs?
Honestly, we could’ve written a thesis about the placement. [Laughs] There was a lot of conversation about how much body contact there should be. And how intimate it should be. I’m really thrilled that it came through. We wanted it to feel like this was the first time, that they were in love and that they were equals in all areas. And we wanted it to feel natural, beautiful and grownup.
TVLINE | What can you say about where their relationship goes from here? Do they panic and pull back? Do they go full-steam ahead?
The story moves very fast from here. [Laughs] Unfortunately, like with most moments in the show, things get in the way of a burgeoning, beautiful romance. But where there’s life, there’s hope. It was a lovely respite, but we do get back to more of a normal show in the next six episodes. We meet a lot more people, and the world opens up in beautiful, brilliant, but also quite terrifying way. So, hold that thought. I don’t think the romance is going anywhere. I think that they love each other. But you may have to wait a little while before the next moment of intimacy.