Past and present Walking Dead stars, including Andrew Lincoln’s TV wife Sarah Wayne Callies and TV son Chandler Riggs, have penned touching tributes to the Rick Grimes star ahead of his exit from the series in Season Nine (via EW).
Callies, who played Lori Grimes, dubbed Lincoln a “sh-tty star” because he hates “attention, parties, being singled out for praise among the work of hundreds.”
“You did teach me — and probably lots of us on the show – something, though: what it means to not be a star. To be the first one to set, the hardest worker, to never complain. To give your best work off-camera for someone else,” Callies wrote. “It brings me back to the yearbook schmaltz: thanks for making me a better person. You’re a s—ty star, brother. But one hell of an actor and an even better man.”
Carl Grimes actor Chandler Riggs, who met his end midway through last season, celebrated his “TV dad” as “someone that I looked up to with the utmost respect because of how dedicated he was to his role.”
Riggs said he was always “so excited” to share scenes with Lincoln, who brought “extreme” energy and passion to each scene — often taking the young actor aside and helping him in his approach to acting.
“When I found out that he was leaving the show, I had mixed emotions. As a fan, I was sad that to hear that he would be leaving the show, but as his ‘TV son’ and his friend, I am so excited for him,” Riggs wrote.
“Knowing that he’s going to have so many more opportunities to do what he loves is amazing. He has been telling me for years about all these amazing ideas and projects that he wants to work on, but was never able to because of the show — and now he has the opportunity to do them. I am so excited to see where his career goes from here, and I can’t wait to support him in everything that he does.”
Before crossing over to spinoff series Fear The Walking Dead, Morgan actor Lennie James served as one of Rick Grimes’ closest allies — and the star predicted Lincoln’s name will go down among “the most important leading men in TV history.”
James credits Lincoln for championing both himself and his character Morgan, writing “it has been one of the major joys of my career to have worked with Andy and an even greater joy and privilege to call him my friend.”
Laurie Holden — who played early Atlanta survivor Andrea — hailed Lincoln as a “kind, selfless, generous performer” and “a true leader in every sense of the way.”
Daryl Dixon star Norman Reedus, Lincoln’s close friend, declared him “the best leading man on television” and a “glowing example” for every single member of the Walking Dead family.
“I can honestly say Andy’s made me a better actor, a better friend, and even a better father because I see how hard he works at keeping his family life and his work life,” Reedus wrote, adding “why he doesn’t have 15 freakin’ Emmys right now blows my mind.”
David Morrissey — who caused Lincoln’s Rick Grimes much grief as the villainous Governor — said his friendship with Lincoln extends to many years, and the star is “a brilliant actor, a great man,” and “an amazing professional.”
Danai Gurira, who acts opposite Lincoln as Rick Grimes’ love Michonne, praised Lincoln as “selfless, eager for all to excel, celebratory, passionate, funny and kind to boot” and as someone who carries “an endless well of joy.”
Maggie Rhee actress Lauren Cohan called Lincoln a “flawless professional” who “inspires a level of authenticity, delivery, and teamwork that elevates us all to our very best, not just through his work, but from who is as a person as well.”
Sarah Wayne Callies [Lori Grimes]
Everything I try to write you sounds like it’s from a junior high yearbook. We were there at the beginning together. I’ll always remember the sunrises on the farm. Thanks for making me a better person. BFF LOL OMG TWD!!!
And I know you hate being praised; best way to trigger one of your Irish Exits is to start telling you how great you are. You’re a s—ty star, you know that? You hate attention, parties, being singled out for praise among the work of hundreds.
The first time I saw your mug 10 feet high at Comic-Con I laughed out loud. I thought, he’s going to swallow his tongue when he sees that. We signed up for a little show you called “a family drama set in hell.” The press laughed at us when we promoted that first season, just the two of us in Europe, remember?
You did teach me — and probably lots of us on the show – something, though: what it means to not be a star. To be the first one to set, the hardest worker, to never complain. To give your best work off-camera for someone else. It brings me back to the yearbook schmaltz: thanks for making me a better person. You’re a s—ty star, brother. But one hell of an actor and an even better man.
Chandler Riggs [Carl Grimes]
I always considered Andy my “TV dad.” He was always someone that I looked up to with the utmost respect because of how dedicated he was to his role. Every single day he showed up knowing every word of the script — everyone else’s lines, the stage direction, everything. There were times on the show that I felt unmotivated or exhausted, but then I looked to Andy and saw how much work he put into his role and became inspired to push forward. I always told myself if he could leave his home and family for so long each year for this role, I can definitely trudge through another year of high school and keep working on the show.
That being said, whenever I had a scene with him, I was always so excited. The energy he brings to each scene is so extreme regardless of what he is doing, and his preparation for getting into character was always very loud and intense. Sometimes after a few takes he’d pull me aside and introduce an idea to think about or a different way to say a specific line, and suddenly everything would make more sense and ultimately the scene would blossom in a way it could never have before. I had always wished that Andy would direct an episode that I would star in, but I am sure I’ll get that opportunity in the future.
When I found out that he was leaving the show, I had mixed emotions. As a fan, I was sad that to hear that he would be leaving the show, but as his “TV son” and his friend, I am so excited for him. Knowing that he’s going to have so many more opportunities to do what he loves is amazing.
He has been telling me for years about all these amazing ideas and projects that he wants to work on, but was never able to because of the show — and now he has the opportunity to do them. I am so excited to see where his career goes from here, and I can’t wait to support him in everything that he does.
Lennie James [Morgan Jones]
There is a song we use to sing in church that has the lyric, “When the roll is called up yonder I’ll be there.” I’d like to paraphrase that line, if I may, to say that when the roll is called of the most important leading men in TV history, up yonder or anywhere else, Andrew Lincoln’s name will be there. It has to be there. Andy took a responsibility for The Walking Dead like no other actor I have ever come across or heard about.
He only ever wanted what was best for the show and transferred that desire to his fellow actors, the writers, the producers and the crew. And he did it by demanding nothing more of them than he did from himself. He led from the front and led by example. Also, he did it all whilst being a fully committed member of the ensemble. No one involved in the show, at any level, was more important than him and also no one was less important as far as he was concerned.
The journey of The Walking Dead hasn’t always been sweetness and light. I don’t want to give that impression. There have been very bumpy times to say the least. But the bottom-line that Andy laid down has acted as a consistent marker for all of us and has kept us going on more than one occasion. We’d here him shout, “Let’s smash it!” and we’d remember why we were all there.
In the second season, when the cast and creatives started to be asked “Where’s Morgan and when is he coming back?” it was Andy who called me to tell me it was happening. He wanted me to know. He said it was like getting a Standing O. When the show asked me back in season 3, it was Andy who called me to make sure I was going to say yes. He also showed up on my first day back, a day that he wasn’t actually working, to “welcome me home,” as he put it.
And when the show asked me to come back as a regular, the first person to contact me to see what I was thinking and feeling about the offer was Andy. He has championed me and my character from day 1, and not just me. Ask any other actor past or present and they will have have their own version of Andy doing likewise for them. Considering how much he had to do for himself, his family and his character — where the bloody hell did he find the time?!
It has been one of the major joys of my career to have worked with Andy and an even greater joy and privilege to call him my friend.
Laurie Holden [Andrea]
When we all started The Walking Dead, none of us knew that it would resonate with people around the world and become such a global phenomenon. It had the ingredients of a potential hit, with the likes of Frank Darabont, Gale Anne Hurd, and Robet Kirkman at the helm, but no one really knew if a show about zombies would be embraced by a mainstream audience, let alone become a hit.
There are a lot of factors that go into a show being successful: great writing, cinematography, stellar acting, and directing. However, one of the key attributes that I feel make or break a show is leadership. With any project, the main lead usually sets the tone for the overall working environment and level of productivity for the cast and crew.
In Andy, we had not only a kind, selfless, generous performer at the helm, but a true leader in every sense of the way. In the three years I was on the show, I never heard him complain ONCE. That’s not an easy feat working in over-100-degree weather in the Georgian heat… with heavy emotional demands being asked of his character in an often 18-hour-day shooting schedule.
Every day, Andy greeted the cast and crew with the most infectious, positivity, energy, and a kindness that always made you feel that no matter what the demands of the day were, everything was going to be okay. He literally would give his last breath to extend a hand if someone was in need and would show up (after he wrapped by the way) to support his fellow actors during their most challenging scenes.
His selfless grace as a man and as an actor is unparalleled, matched only by his talent as a craftsman. I will always cherish my time working with Andy and welcome any and all opportunities to creatively dance with this beautiful spirit again.
Norman Reedus [Daryl Dixon]
Andy is the best leading man on television, and a glowing example of what everyone that’s come onto this show has tried to follow, and he’s done that since day one. He’s always been the first person to say hello, he’s always been the first person to offer help, he’s always been the first person to put himself out there beyond what his job asks him to do. He’s the first person there, and he’s the last person left. And he wants to talk about it, which is exhausting at times.
But he wants to break it down, he wants to put it back together. He wants to talk about your parts, my parts, everyone’s parts. Watching how much time Andy puts into his job inspires other actors on the show to put the same amount of time in.
When my role on the show started to change was when he and John Bernthal started including me in scenes on decisions. And I don’t know if it was ever said to anybody. I think they kind of just did it naturally. When we would go to inspect something and talk about what the plan was, instead of Shane and Rick just looking to each other and talking about it, they started looking to me too. That helped propel my character into one of the leaders on the show, and those two actors did that naturally.
All of a sudden, I was included and I wasn’t just the outside guy throwing squirrels and wanting to stab people and shit. They transformed my character into something else whether they know it or not.
I can honestly say Andy’s made me a better actor, a better friend, and even a better father because I see how hard he works at keeping his family life and his work life. It’s easier for me. My son’s in New York. I can bounce on a plane and bounce there for the weekend for the days I have off, but his family’s all the way in England.
So to watch him balance that and balance work — it’s been an admirable thing to watch. I can’t say enough good things about that guy. Why he doesn’t have 15 freakin’ Emmys right now blows my mind.
Lauren Cohan [Maggie Rhee]
Andy is a flawless professional – he makes everything easy for us. He inspires a level of authenticity, delivery, and teamwork that elevates us all to our very best, not just through his work, but from who is as a person as well. In what has turned out to be an experience that I think a lot of us share, when I first started on the show, Andy called me on my way home from my first day of work. He let me know he was there for me, told me that we are all in this together, and reassured me that he was at the other end of the phone and available to talk at any time.
I believe that really good things don’t happen in isolation. Often they may be on the brink of materializing, they may be a good idea, but they usually need something very generous, so full of love and effort — someone contagious to bring them to life.
We are very lucky to have this catalyst in many forms in our The Walking Dead family. And we are insanely lucky to have experienced the care of a person like Andy. Here’s to a friend with the most ferocious heart…thank you. We love you, Andy!
Danai Gurira [Michonne]
Andy is all about manners. “Never,” he would often say, “lose your manners.” I watched this function as his guiding principle for seven seasons and watched how it created an amazing work environment. I always say he hatched from an egg because he’s such a rare breed. It really amazed me when I joined the show in 2012, the lead actor was selfless, eager for all to excel, celebratory, passionate, funny and kind to boot. He also had an endless well of joy. I’ve often called it a childlike joy. Boundless, resilient and light.
Every day, he walked into the hair and makeup trailer, at whatever wretched hour and just overflowed with positivity and affection. And that overflow was infectious. It made this job that much more enjoyable, for everyone including cast and crew. His unfailing focus and passion kept us all, like him, ready to give it our all. Many would come to our cast and comment on how they had never experienced anything like it. We were, as a result of his astounding example and spirit, a merry band of apocalyptic survivors.
For me, he was an anchor, as a leader must be, but he was also someone who never failed to effortlessly earn my deepest respect. I spent many a long, long work day in sweltering hot Georgia with Andy, and watched how this man never tired, never stopped giving more than 100 percent, and kept everyone around him motivated and excited to be there. And never, ever did he lose his manners.
There is always a way to achieve your goals, even handle highly intense situations without losing one’s manners. It was an amazing example to be guided by, especially in this day and age, when vitriol is one tweet away. It’s a principle that has nourished me in my profession, and my life. Whatever egg he hatched from, we need to get to cloning it because the world would be so much better with more Andy Lincoln in it!