It’s safe to say that Andrew Lincoln’s looming departure from The Walking Dead is extremely hard to wrap our heads around. As the leader of both the band of characters we’ve grown to love over the past eight years, Lincoln has also been the Captain of the series itself, shaping the lives of the actors who have shared the camera with him over the years. While it’s almost impossible to put into words just how important Andrew Lincoln is to The Walking Dead and to the fans, Entertainment Weekly challenged the people who know him best to give it a shot. In a series of goodbye letters written by his co-stars of the past and present, it’s evident just how amazing of a human being Andrew Lincoln is and just how monumental his impact was on everyone who had the opportunity to work with him. Check out the touching tributes below and try not to get emotional!
Sarah Wayne Callies
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.
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.
I love Andy. I can’t think of another actor in my life that has had more of an impact on me, and that is more important to me. He is fiercely dedicated, but also unbelievably available and kind. I think the thing about Andy that strikes me the most is, often you get one of those or the other. Often you get people that are so unbelievably focused and encompassed by their work that they’re almost like a marvel to look at. But the thing is that they remain sort of closed off, and part of their process requires an unbelievable amount of self reflection and almost a wall around them. Andy’s really the only guy I’ve ever worked with who has that amount of dedication and that amount of commitment, but remains completely open and completely available for anybody. I think when it comes down to it, it’s just an ultimate love for the project, a love for the work, and a love for the community of people that make the work.
My first memories of Andy are at his audition, and then us going down to Georgia together and starting this process. We were two young hungry actors who felt so unbelievably blessed to be there. We were f—ing nervous, man. We were a pair of nervous wrecks. I remember one day in our first week of filming, Andy just turned to me and said, “Hey man, I’m not going to be nervous anymore.” I saw this man take ownership of not only this part but took ownership of being the leader of this entire project. I remember when we were shooting his initial scenes in the hospital, I saw him walking around with nothing on but a hospital gown, screaming up to the heavens to get prepared for a scene. I remember just sitting down on a rock and watching that. I had never seen anything like it before — how maniacally committed he was, and how far he was going.
When I met Andy, I was right on the cusp of being a father and a husband. I’ve learned life lessons from Andy on how to do that — how to do this job, and how to be a father and a husband and a leading man. To this day, not too much time goes by where I don’t look myself in the mirror and say, “What would Andy do?” So many times when I’m getting frustrated on my set, or when the chips are down, or when I just need a second to myself, I need to just concentrate on my own character and I feel like I’m about to burst, I try to get centered. I say, “What would Andy do? Think about Andy. Think about Andy Lincoln.” I love him and I believe in him, and I’m so f—ing grateful that he had such an influence on my life. I would not be the man I am, I wouldn’t be the father I am, I wouldn’t be the husband I am, and I surely wouldn’t be the actor I am if it wasn’t for my time with him.
He’s just a very important person to me, and unlike any other. Definitely the best lead that I’ve ever worked with in my life in any capacity. As I go forward with The Punisher and with some of the movies that I do, I often times do everything I can to emulate that, and I’ve failed. I fail. I don’t think there will be another Andy Lincoln.
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.
I think you’d be hard pressed to find people like Andy. He’s that perfect mix of class, humor, and talent. I remember my first days with him on our show and remember how calm he made everyone. As a totally green kid starting work on my first ever show, I was absolutely terrified, but somehow on that first day I couldn’t help but feel a sense of ease, as if someone had taken all the difficulty and nerves out of the situation for me. That was totally Andy Lincoln. I learned quite a bit during my seven years on that show with him. Sometimes it was direct, like him taking the time to work through a scene on our off days with me. Other times it was passive, just me just looking up to him, asking myself if I could ever do that; if I could be so resolute in the face of enormous pressure.
I heard this from my cousin and it seems to encapsulate the environment that Andy generated around him: kindness breeds safety; safety breeds confidence. To know that things will be taken care of because your lead actor is also an incredible leader is something that I will be forever grateful for. I owe Andy quite a bit for helping and guiding me throughout my time with him on that show. I’m just trying to catch up to his example.
Congratulations, Andy. You’re one of the greatest. Love you.
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.
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 Deadfamily. 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!
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!
Jeffrey Dean Morgan
It was just after first light, and my phone was ringing. “Yeah, hello” my voice croaked. “Welcome to the family.” It was Andy Lincoln, his voice just as thrashed as mine. We had just finished pulling an all-nighter… the season finale of season 6, and the introduction of Negan. The night was not only intense and emotional as hell acting-wise, but it meant saying goodbye to two people that had been on the show for years, two people that were beloved by all. It had been both simultaneously an amazing and yet, a s—ty night. For everyone. But there was this part of me that felt like I was partly responsible for destroying a family. Acting… Yes. It was. Yet, it was more than that… This WAS a family.
Andy certainly didn’t owe me that call, and yet, there he was… not only welcoming me and thanking me for the work, but embracing me as one of his own. One of their own. It’s a microcosm of the kind of guy Andy is; he’s number one on the call sheet, the true leader of our show, and trust me… it ALL, always trickles down from the top. He’s the top. He is the patriarch of The Walking Deadfamily and he leads with his heart, passion, excitement, and love… as well as some really bad singing. (Usually right before the camera rolls.) There is no replacing him. Nor will we try. I love the man. Not only as an actor and an inspiration, but most importantly as a friend. I will miss him every single day, I DO miss him every single day.
But the thing that I, and we all, should take solace in, is that Andy put his blood, sweat, tears into The Walking Dead. Literally. And now? He gets to do that very thing with his beautiful family. A family that shared their husband, father, and son with us for almost a decade. I adore Andy’s family, and really, I can’t thank them enough for letting us borrow him for as long as we did. But most importantly, I am so thankful for Andy, the irreplaceable brother. It’s been an honor and a privilege. After he called me that first night, he texted me, reiterating his words, “Welcome to the family.” I’m still not sure why he sent that text… maybe he thought I didn’t believe him, I’m not sure and I never asked, but I saved that text from four years ago, and I’ll save it forever. We may have turned the page on this chapter… but it’s a big-ass book, and I can’t wait to turn the page to our next adventure together. Xojd
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 Robert 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.
Andy has taught me so much about focus and attitude on set. Once he told me how he will look at the palm of his hand to get focused and back to the character. Sometimes there can be so many things happening on a set; things that can distract you from the story you are trying to tell. I’ve actually used this trick of looking at my hand myself and continue to use it as needed when I’m feeling distracted.
I feel lucky to have met Andy so early on in my career. The excitement, work ethic and attention to detail he brings to his work raises the bar for everyone around him. I am definitely a better actor because of getting to work with him. I have never met another lead television actor like him; he is so kind. I want to be like Andy, and I think of him and others from The Walking Dead cast every time I’m on a new set
I have been lucky to know Andrew for many years now. Not just through my time on The Walking Dead. He is a great friend. But also an amazing professional. A show like The Walking Dead has so many elements to it in order for it to be the huge success it has become. Andrew leads from the front. His commitment and care are always 100 percent. He looks after every new member of the cast and crew. He is approachable and open. And that means that the atmosphere and ethos of the show, the ensemble nature of The Walking Dead, are set by him. Everyone works for each other because that is the example he sets. He is also of course, a fantastic actor. I have had the pleasure of seeing him on stage and screen in many things and I am looking forward so much to seeing him inhabit so many new roles in the future. He is a brilliant actor, a great man, and I know he will cringe when he reads all this because he is also one of the most modest people I have ever met. I am privileged to know him and to have worked with him.
He’s is the most selfless, passionate No. 1 on the call sheet I’ve ever worked with. Braving the heat, major production team changes, artistic differences, cast members killed, and always with a grace and dignity that words will never do justice. You always had his ear whether it was show related or personal. Season 4 was incredibly tough for me personally, and I distinctly remember this man sharing deeply personal things with me to help me face certain challenges. He’s fiercely committed to storytelling that is rich, deep and substantive! Never saw a meltdown. Never saw any entitlement. Never saw negativity. Not in my 3 seasons. What No. 1 do you know who shows up on set when he’s not working — which was hardly ever — to watch your scene and calls you after to say he’s a fan. Smh. This uber-talented thespian is a leader in every sense of the word. Big Love, Big Linc!
If you ask me, and I get this question quite often, “Who’s the best actor you’ve ever worked with?” I answer with a fiery quickness, “Oh. Well, that’s Andrew Lincoln.”
He introduced me to a level of excellence in this craft that I hadn’t experienced before working with him. The level of dedication he brings to the story and to the people around him, both in the story and outside of it, is astounding. It’s powerful to see someone give every fiber of their being. And it’s transformative. It literally changes you when you witness it. We would watch him, eyes wide and jaws dropped and we would say, “Look at him! How is he doing this??” He’s our family. He led us through, he established a culture of excellence and togetherness, he gave us an example. I’ll always be grateful to him. I thank God for him. I thank God for placing me in that Walking Dead family because I am better in every way for it.
Andy Lincoln is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. I don’t throw that around lightly. He is someone that the minute you meet him, you want to know more about him. And after knowing more about him, you want to be friends with him.
I had a wonderful experience on one of my first big scenes, and it was my first scene with Andy where we had this big conflict in the church. Andy and I kind of went at it, and throughout the day people were coming up and they were asking us, “Hey, you guys alright? Are you and Andy really pissed off at each other?” That’s because we really both got into it, and he staysinto it. He’s walking by in between takes and he’s bumping his shoulder into my shoulder and just giving me crap the whole time. At lunch, we sit basically on other ends of the lunchroom. Later, we come back into it and we finish up the scene. Andy just started busting out laughing. He’s like, “Oh my God, that was so much fun!” We started hugging each other.
I remember looking at him, and at the time, it was incredibly emotional. I looked at him and just said, “I feel like I landed.” And he said, “Yeah, you did brother,” and he gave me a big hug. Ever since that day I felt extremely connected to him, and I feel like that day he helped me find and define who Abraham was going to be for the rest of the show. I just love that dude.
Andy was the very first actor I met on the show and he couldn’t have welcomed me more warmly. Within minutes of meeting, he made me feel like I was one of the family and that energy, that warmth, didn’t cease at any point in the five seasons I worked with him. Not only is he the most dedicated actor I’ve ever met, he’s also the kindest. Andy set the tone for all of us… cast and crew alike, and I feel honored to have shared the screen with him. I hope that I can follow in his footsteps and emulate even a modicum of the class and dignity that he exhibited every day on-set.
I first met Andy in the last days of 1999. I was part of a theatre group in our hometown called The Musical Youth Theatre Company. Andy had been a member of it a few years before me and was the big success story. He hosted a benefit that the group did for the millennium. He was definitely an inspiration to my teenage self and an example of what was possible, as well as being a thoroughly nice guy. After that we crossed paths again playing uncle and nephew in Wuthering Heights and then a few years after that I was working on a show for HBO and my accent coach was helping Andy on a pilot called The Walking Dead. My show only went for one season, but we all know what happened to the other. And so six years later I found myself on set with a familiar face. Everyone on the show always talks about what a great leading man Andy is behind the scenes and I always feel a little privileged that I knew that before The Walking Dead began. The last thing he mentioned to me was that he hoped we could do a play together in London. I look forward to it.
The thing about Andy is that the guy you meet in person is the exact same as the one on TV. He’s very authentic, and so kind and generous. I still remember my first day on set. I was really, really freakin’ nervous because there were all these really talented people there that had been doing this for so long. The majority of the cast was in this different area filming, and I was kind of separated from them in the background, and I remember Andy walked all the way over to me and introduced himself and shook my hand, which was very kind and made me feel a lot more comfortable.
Andy set the standards of this family mentality of the cast and crew, and it has carried out through so many seasons. He sets that example, and people realize how well it works and follow along with it. He’s brought a lot to this show, and it’s going to be really sad and really hard to lose him. But, thanks to him, the show has become what it is. A big thank you to Andrew Lincoln.
Captain…our captain. Andrew Lincoln. First time on set, I went to the makeup trailer. There he was. We greeted. We chatted. Spoke of Camus, the TWD world, family, and the world. Waiting on the powers that be to decide on my facial hair, we called my son — a fan of the show. Andrew, as his nature, accommodated. That was enough for me — this man’s core exposed — a wonderful man. Then came his commitment to his character, the work, and the show. Be it a drone shot, your close up, a master shot, a close up of that tree under the moonlight, Andrew Lincoln gave a thousand percent!!! The night of Negan taking out Glenn and Abraham… I stood there watching this man… broken… feeling inspired. Austin and I instantly bonded over this — never seeing someone so committed to bringing their character to life. Inspiring. Loved. Andy gave me the Camus book. So lucky to have that time! Grateful. Thank you, Andrew!! For this, that, and beyond!! Much love!
When I first showed up on the set of The Walking Dead, Andy was waiting for me. He wasn’t working any part of that episode, but he stayed half the night. I didn’t realize it in the moment, but I was already family as far as he was concerned. I know that because over the years I’ve seen him treat every member of this cast and crew with the same support and respect. It’s why we’d all run through a wall for the man.
Andrew Lincoln is both a humble, kind, considerate and funny human and a daring, fiercely intelligent talent intent on serving story and character. He’ll tell you “f— that guy” which usually means “f— fear”. Like the best actors, he wants to share the good stuff. I’ve had a fantastic time working one on one with him, ever focused, ever looking for truth and for fun. I’ve also seen how he treats the cast and crew with as much respect and expectation as he does his endeavors. His latest, to be based at home with his family, is one we all support. He leaves The Walking Dead with a vibrant legacy of bravery, professionalism, commitment, humility, and sharing the joy of what we do. We love him and look forward to what’s next for him. Rock on, Clutterbuck.
Andrew Lincoln’s final season of The Walking Dead kicks off this Sunday on AMC!
Having studied Media & Writing at James Madison University, I always knew that I wanted to do some type of creative writing, but being able to write about zombies, Starks, and superheroes on a daily basis for Fan Fest is my actual dream. While I probably shouldn’t be as proud as I am to be so similar to Nick Miller, I do hope to one day write my own “Pepperwood Chronicles’.