After nine seasons and more than 100 episodes of battling zombies, Andrew Lincoln left AMC phenomenon The Walking Dead in November 2018. And his farewell letter proved to be just as emotional as anything that befell his beloved character Rick Grimes. Here’s a look at how the actor signed off from the zombie show in touching style.
Born in London in 1973 to a nurse mother from South Africa and an English civil engineer father, Andrew Lincoln made his debut in a high school staging of Oliver, playing the Artful Dodger. After honing his craft at the National Youth Theatre, he attended the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He first appeared on screen in a 1994 episode of newsroom comedy Drop the Dead Donkey.
Lincoln ventured on to the big screen a year later in Boston Kickout. But his big break arrived in 1996 when he was cast as the loveable Egg on the BBC’s This Life. The actor enjoyed two seasons on the zeitgeist-defining legal drama before adding to his filmography with The Woman in White and Human Traffic. He also narrated the first two seasons of reality series Shipwrecked.
In 2001, Lincoln bagged his second major recurring role, fledgling high school teacher Simon Casey in the UK dramedy Teachers. He also received a BAFTA Award nomination for his directorial duties on two of its episodes. The actor then gained international attention in 2003 for playing Mark, the best man who famously declares his love for the bride using cue cards, in romantic comedy Love Actually.
Lincoln later graced the big screen in Enduring Love, Scenes of a Sexual Nature and Heartbreaker. He also played Mr Clarke in Made in Dagenham, starred in action series Strike Back and appeared in productions of The Late Henry Moss and Parlour Song at London’s Almeida Theatre. His career reached new heights when he bagged the leading role in a brand-new comic book adaptation in 2010.
That adaptation was, of course, The Walking Dead. Lincoln fronted the AMC show as Rick Grimes, a deputy sheriff who wakes up from a coma to discover that the world has been taken over by zombies. His character subsequently leads a group of survivors who must learn how to stave off the constant threat of the undead.
Actor Lincoln’s committed performances helped The Walking Dead to become cable TV’s highest-rated drama ever. He also earned numerous glowing reviews and awards for his turn as the show’s protagonist. These included Best TV Hero at the 2010 IGN Summer Movie Awards, Favorite TV Anti-Hero at the 2014 People’s Choice Awards and Best Actor on Television at the 2015 Saturn Awards.
Lincoln initially signed up for up to six years of the zombie drama. But following its phenomenal global success he agreed to stay on for a further two seasons in 2016. After eight years, nine seasons and 119 episodes, the star decided to bid farewell to The Walking Dead in late 2018.
Shortly before Lincoln’s remaining two episodes aired, AMC sent press outlets a goodbye kit to commemorate his departure. The package featured a photo of the star accompanied by a letter written by the man himself. And the star’s words soon had fans turning on the waterworks when it was later posted online.
Lincoln began by thanking those who had stuck with the “fear, heartache, anger and, let’s face it, guts” of The Walking Dead for nine seasons. He also offered his gratitude “for understanding that despite the high volume of undead, this is actually an ongoing story about what it is to be alive. A story of hope, family and friendship.”
Lincoln continued, “[Playing Rick Grimes has] been the most exciting, challenging and satisfying role of my career. And for the best part of a decade, the greatest adventure of my professional life. This season feels like the show I fell in love with all those years ago, and the world we were always heading toward when we wrapped the pilot episode.”
The actor then claimed Grimes had killed roughly 400 zombies during his stint on the show. Eating a dog, escaping from several hipster cannibals and losing and finding a horse were just a few of the other incidents Lincoln referenced. He also mentioned that he’d been stabbed three times, shot twice, been struck with a baseball bat and had his cowboy boots resoled a dozen times.
“We began as an indie movie, and years later became a three-letter acronym (wtf?),” added Lincoln. “And along the way, we’ve had the unique pleasure of meeting zombie enthusiasts all over our beautiful blue planet. From Tokyo to Trinidad, people have been united by their love of this story of survival – and Norman Reedus’ extraordinarily luscious hair.”
The The Walking Dead experience was a “wild ride,” Lincoln said. He added it had been shaped by the connections between the show and both its fans and the press. He said, “I look forward to following your coverage of the show and my friends in Atlanta for the seasons to come. What they have planned is quite incredible.”
Heartthrob Lincoln then signed off the letter, “So thank you. For all of it. For the good, the bad – and of course, we wouldn’t be a free press – without the ugly. Until our paths cross again. Keep Calm and Carry a Red Machete.”
Several members of the press expressed their appreciation on Twitter at receiving the package. INSIDER’s Kirsten Acuna posted, “This is humbling and a validation for many late nights. Thanks for the #stuffandthangs AMC. Only feels right to share this letter from Andrew Lincoln on his departure with you all.”
Brandon Davis from comicbook.com was just as bowled over by the surprise package. He tweeted, “Wow. Wow, wow, wow. This is incredible. I just received a copy of #TheWalkingDead’s [season nine, episode five] script cover signed by Andrew Lincoln, Rick Grimes. Wow. #ThankYou.”
Several of his colleagues past and present were also asked by Entertainment Weekly to pen their own goodbye letter to the star. Sarah Wayne Callies praised Lincoln’s work ethic. She wrote, “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.”
Meanwhile, Chandler Riggs admitted he had mixed emotions about his on-screen dad’s departure. He wrote, “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.” While Jon Bernthal admitted, “I can’t think of another actor in my life that has had more of an impact on me.”
Lincoln’s departure aired in November 2018. Warning: spoiler ahead. Initially Grimes appeared to have been killed off after deliberately blowing up a bridge to thwart an oncoming bunch of zombies. But just moments later he was saved by Anne/Jadis, with the pair later taking to the skies in a helicopter. This escape paves the way for a planned trilogy of spin-off films starring Lincoln.