The story of how The Walking Dead cast its Rick Grimes


Andrew Lincoln will forever be Rick Grimes, but the Executive Producer of The Walking Dead revealed at Comic-Con that finding their actor was a struggle at first.

Casting for a show like The Walking Dead cannot be an easy task, especially in the beginning (before it became the T.V. juggernaut it is today). There’s even more pressure to get a perfect fit when trying to get an actor who looks like or at least looks similar, to the character in the comics.

Rick Grimes is the main character of The Walking Dead, a character that, even despite the news of Andrew Lincoln leaving, would be hard to see this show without. Whether it be emotional scenes, action scenes, speeches, or the several upon hundred scenes of Rick Grimes threatening to kill people, Lincoln has done a phenomenal job over the past eight years. The casting directors completely nailed it, but it didn’t come easy.

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While at San Diego Comic-Con this past weekend, executive producer Gale Anne Hurd told EW of how Mr. Lincoln was casted.

"“I remember calling up [original showrunner] Frank Darabont and saying, ‘God, there’s something to this guy.’ At that point, we didn’t even know if we would be able to find our Rick Grimes. It was that serious.”"

Before Lincoln’s audition, much of the original actors had already been cast, including Jon Bernthal as Shane Walsh, Grimes best friend-turned-enemy. Bernthal actually auditioned to play Rick Grimes, but we can see why the right decision was made, as he owned the role of Shane. Several other quality actors auditioned as well, such as Thomas Jane, Stuart Townsend, and Ethen Embry (who played Alexandrian resident Carter for about twenty minutes before being killed off).

Hurd then auditioned Andrew Lincoln, a British actor whose most-known roles were romantic comedies Love Actually and Heartbreaker. It seemed like a bit of a gamble at first, but Hurd and the casting directors struck gold.

"“We brought [Andrew] over to the US and did that initial test in Frank’s garage, in the car, in Frank’s garage. And that’s when we said, ‘Oh my God, we have our Rick Grimes.’ And who thought it was gonna be this [Royal Academy of Dramatic Art]-trained UK actor, that we only knew from [Love Actually]. Literally, people thought we were nuts.”"

Lincoln even joked that he thought it was a little crazy and that he knew Rick Grimes giant sheriff’s hat would be tough for him to fill. Hurd continued on her slight hesitation at first, saying:

"“And I remember thinking, you know, we know how fantastic he is, but it’s really important — ‘How are we going to sell this to a US audience that only knows him from Love Actually?’ And I remember how important it was finding that first image of you, and getting that out, and coming to Comic-Con, because this is that journey. We were here nine years ago, not knowing how the fans were gonna accept their beloved comic book coming to life. And as you probably all know, Andy can’t watch the promos or the clips or the show, but you heard the applause.”"

Regarding his exit from the show after nine long seasons, Lincoln had this to say:

"“This will be my last season playing the part of Rick Grimes. I love this show. It means everything to me. I love the people who make this show… I’m particularly fond of the people who watch the show. You people. This has been the most extraordinary, amazing, and beautiful experience of my career.”"

Next: Trailer for The Walking Dead season 9 gets Comic-Con premiere

The Walking Dead will certainly not be the same without Lincoln. Whether the writers decide to kill him off or simply just write out the character for a while, we will have to wait and see. For nine seasons, Lincoln brought Rick Grimes to life from a comic book to our living rooms, and we’re all fortunate that Hurd and Darabont gave him that audition in the garage.

Season 9 of The Walking Dead returns Sunday, October 7th on AMC.