Warning: Storyline and character spoilers ahead for “The Next World” episode of The Walking Dead.
Rewatch “The Next World” often, Walking Dead fans, because it might be the last time we see Rick Grimes allowed to revel in his new hopefulness for awhile. TWD star Andrew Lincoln tells Yahoo TV the realities of the real world will, of course, rear their ugly heads in the final six episodes of Season 6. And though he hopes he and new girlfriend Michonne will get the chance for at least a few more “lovey scenes,” he teases that a slew of new faces and new threats will take up much of Rick and company’s time, leading to a season finale he calls “bleak.”
Lincoln also tells us how he reacted to the script that made him and Michonne the series’ new supercouple, how we’ll find out Carl’s reaction to the new pairing in a surprising way, and teases some cameo appearances throughout the rest of Season 6.
There is a lot to love in “The Next World,” but I think the best thing is the Rick that we see in this episode, the playful, hopeful Rick that we’ve never gotten to see in the entire series.
Yeah, I agree. When we read it… it’s funny, because we were riffing about it two days ago, and Greg [Nicotero] reminded me that we had had this conversation, he and Norman and I, over an Indian meal. I said, “We need a Butch and Sundance kind of episode. Where these guys are just hanging out.” We pitched it to Scott [Gimple], and Scott said, “I think we may have a point in the back eight [episodes] where this could possibly happen.“ Then Angela Kang, who is such a magnificent writer, got on the case and just dialed into it, this incredibly different flavor of the show. It was a bit unsettling, but quite exciting being on set playing with these characters and messing around and just kicking back with these people. It was a lot of fun. And that is not an expression I’ve used that often in six years about The Walking Dead [stories].
What was the most fun part for you of filming the episode?
It was thrilling to, obviously, have the scenes at the end with Danai [Gurira] and move into this new relationship, this new space with this familiar old friend. That was very exciting and strange and just new. I suppose the most fun bits were every single scene with Norman Reedus. There are a lot of outtakes on that episode. I think there’s a lot of messing around and improvising, and Norman makes me laugh. When I’ve done comedy shows before, I’m pretty bad about laughing. It’s a weak spot, but it’s something I’ve worked on, Kim. Norman Reedus is like a chicken… when he sees blood, he pecks. When he sees me starting to [laugh], he’s terrible. He’s absolutely ruthless.
One of my favorite lines is when he goes, “Let’s put him up a tree,” about Jesus. I just think is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard. That’s the thing I love about Rick and Daryl. Rick looks at Daryl sometimes like, "What? You’re an alien. You’re talking absolute gibberish.” That was one of those. They both felt comfortable with each other, and are used to each other, which is what I dug about the episode. It felt like this is an ordinary day, when they’re just hanging. Like this wasn’t an unusual day, apart from what we see at the end with Jesus. It’s astonishing, because it was the first time in six years that we were allowed to just play. Also, this kind of brotherly relationship. In any other circumstances, if there weren’t zombies on the earth, I’d be arresting this sucker. Yet, we’re forced together. What’s that wonderful movie with Charles Grodin and Robert De Niro?
Oh, Midnight Run?
Midnight Run! It’s kind of that. It’s people that really shouldn’t be in the same space, forced to live with each other, and making it work and finding their own little soft spots and weak spots, and just messing around. It was great.
It was also just such great timing after Rick having this realization at the end of the midseason premiere, this new hopefulness. And so much of the humor in this episode comes from the fact that Rick is in this different mindset, and Daryl is just pissed off at the world right now.
Yeah, I think you’re right. I’ve said it before that it’s an endurance test, watching this show sometimes. It’s an endurance test being in the show, but for [viewers] as well. It’s painful, and you deserve some lightness. And also, what are we fighting for if not romance and laughter and all the good stuff? That’s why I think it was, it’s diametrically opposed to the last episode, but then, why not? I think it was a very brave call from Scott and the writer’s room and a surprise, which is no bad thing.
It made me think of Tyreese, and how he had gotten to the point where he questioned if it was worth continuing to fight to survive if it meant giving up his humanity. This episode, as you said, shows us that there are reasons to keep fighting, and that sometimes the survivors actually get to be reminded of those reasons.
That was one of the most exciting things about playing in that space, is that this is, it’s a man with hope for the first time. It’s a community with hope for the first time. It’s almost like you can mark the morning after the battle for Alexandria as the beginning of history. It’s like day one of the new civilization. That’s when we start believing that there is hope for a real chance at rebuilding. I think that that is, of course, going to get smashed very quickly. [Laughs.] You know the way we roll. I do hope there are some other glimpses of this new sensitive, funny, gentle, and more playful Rick.
How big of a factor is Jesus in all of that? There were real stakes involved with the truck and all those supplies, but Rick also seemed to, especially once he had determined that Jesus wasn’t going to kill him and Daryl, enjoy the adventure with the three of them.
Yeah, I think so. I think that Jesus was really clever, and there’s an argument. The episode is an argument going on all the way through. It’s the law of averages, man. We’re going to run into some people. We’re going to get some food. It’s going to work out. It’s time. I think Rick has had a complete turnaround. He says, “I was wrong,” at the end of (the midseason premiere). This is the beginning of a man that really, truly believes in expansion and growth and building a community. He knows that we need people to survive. I think he’s positioning himself very much in a place that is deciding to trust first. Of course, his instinct, his Spidey sense, tells him that (Jesus) isn’t a direct threat. Rick’s a cop, and he’s a very intuitive man anyway. He’s met a lot of bad people in this new world. He value judges Jesus very quickly as not being that kind of threat. And Daryl is the opposite, all the way through the episode. I’m not sure if Rick would have taken Jesus back if he hadn’t been so badly injured. I think there is still a great deal left unknown about this guy, and he hasn’t particularly ingratiated himself to Rick or Michonne by walking into the middle of us, in the middle of the night, naked.
At the very least, Jesus has terrible timing.
He is the worst. Yes, terrible, terrible sense of timing, Jesus.
What was your first reaction when you found Richonne was finally going to happen?
Oh, man, I screamed. We had a couple of days where we were finishing up episode 9, which was pretty busy for me, but Danai had been away for a couple of days and read the script. She was behaving really quite strangely around me in the makeup room in the morning. I said, “What’s wrong with you?” She said, “Have you read it yet?” I said, “What are you talking about? I’m two acts in, it’s great. It’s really different. It’s fun.” She said, “No, finish it. Finish it. Then talk to me.” I read it straight away and then banged on her trailer door and went, “What the heck is going on? Did you know about this?” She said, “I had an inkling.” I said, “You had an inkling and you didn’t tell me?”
It was fun though. It’s an extraordinary thing to do. It’s so not in the comic book. It is something that I think a lot of people have been wanting. These are two… what we wanted [to convey with] that scene was these two old warrior friends who love each other, and for all intents and purposes, have been a family for quite a long time. They’ve saved each other’s lives on many occasions. This was just a moment of electricity where they catch each other, and they look at each other, and they say, of course, of course it should be this, and it should be grown up and natural and free and equal.
I was concerned about the time jump not registering, because episodically, Rick’s just lost Jessie. But actually, Jessie’s a vital part of opening up a very important area of Rick that he had closed since Lori’s death. I think without Jessie, the kiss [with Michonne] would never have happened. There is a natural evolution, I think, of Rick between those two women.
Going forward, we know Carl loves Michonne. He already sees her as family. Is there any chance he won’t be thrilled about their new relationship?
There’s always a chance that a teenager’s not going to be happy about their parents kissing on the sofa. But these questions get addressed very quickly, just rest assured. But they get answered in a surprising way, as always with Scott’s writing. It’s not, perhaps, what people might think.
You touched on it earlier, we have this newly hopeful Rick, but we also know that there are some very scary situations, people, person coming. Is there any way that lighter tone can be maintained for him and everyone else?
I think he will quickly see that there is… the narrative moves very, very quickly in these next six episodes. As always, sometimes the crisis gets in the way of perhaps the lighter things. I think you’re going to find an increase in story and pace and jeopardy interfering with a lot of the burgeoning romance, unfortunately, but you never know. You never know. We live in hope for more scenes, more lovey scenes. There’s always space for love in the apocalypse.
Greg Nicotero said that the season finale is the best episode so far of the series. You’ve said that just reading the script made you sick to your stomach, which as you can imagine is causing all kinds of anxiety for fans. What can you say about that?
Yeah, like a lot of, I think the great episodes that we’ve had, when you read them, they’re incredibly clear. [The season finale] starts in one place and finishes in a very clear, different place, but everything is moving towards an inevitable point. It has this incredible energy. I think a lot of the last few episodes, I think 14, 15, and 16, are very strong episodes. I think they’re all great. I think this is one of the strongest and most different, tonally, back eight we’ve ever attempted. I’m just really, really, excited for people to watch it. There’s a lot of surprises. There’s a heck of a lot of action. There’s some brilliant performances, and some amazing cameos as well, some brilliant actors that only appear in a couple of scenes, and phenomenal supporting cast performances. And there is quite a lot of humor in it as well, surprisingly, even though it’s probably one of the bleakest and most… I don’t want to give too much away. The final episode is just, we leave the show in a place we’ve never done before. It’s a testament to the writers, but there’s a lot of people coming. There’s a lot of new faces you’re going to see, and it happens very quickly.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.