Andrew Lincoln is dusting off his cowboy boots and "very, very excited" for Rick Grimes to return in the Walking Dead movie he expects to begin filming as soon as this spring. Lincoln left The Walking Dead during its ninth season in 2018, but his character would live on: franchise chief content officer Scott Gimple quickly announced Rick would return in a series of AMC original films that would later be upgraded to bigger-budgeted features distributed into theaters by Universal Pictures. Production was expected to get underway in 2019, but a series of delays — including a pushed back shooting start amid the coronavirus pandemic — have kept Lincoln away from the Walking Dead Universe.
"Initially, I didn't miss him too much because it was such a great finish to my story on the TV show," the English actor told the latest print issue of SFX Magazine about Rick, who flies away from The Walking Dead aboard a helicopter piloted by the Civic Republic Military. "Also, I am in very, very close communication with all of my friends from Atlanta, so I'm always in touch with them. But then this extraordinary situation happened in the world and we all pushed the pause button, and also there had been so much happening in a country I see as my second home."
Lincoln and Gimple, at the time The Walking Dead's showrunner, devised a potential exit strategy for Lincoln as far back as Season 4. The actor ultimately left the Georgia-based production to spend more time with his growing family — only for his children to urge him to get back to Rick Grimes.
"I've never missed America more than last year, actually — it's quite interesting," Lincoln said. "And my children… I came back for my children and they're like, 'What are you doing? We want to go back to America, get your boots on and start getting into the zombies!' So there's a certain sense that I've missed the character — I think he's a magnificent character and I loved being Rick."
Gimple, who co-wrote the script with Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman, produces the film with first-time producer Lincoln. Though the actor has been away from Rick since 2018, Lincoln hasn't strayed too far from The Walking Dead.
"Throughout all of this time, percolating underneath it, has been lots of script-writing and development for the feature," he told SFX. "So it's difficult because I've always had one eye on the movies. And then of course we've waited and waited and waited. Hopefully, we should be receiving a script any day now, so we are very, very excited and we've got a wonderful team involved in it. So yes, the short answer is I've missed it greatly the last year. I'm looking forward to getting back."
Lincoln also told the magazine he would "never say never" to making an appearance in the upcoming expanded final season of The Walking Dead and that his big-screen Rick return will at long last begin filming "at the first available opportunity."
Follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter for all things TWD. The Final Season of The Walking Dead begins Sunday, August 22, on AMC.