‘The Walking Dead’: Andrew Lincoln is ready to finally ‘kick Negan’s ass’ in season 8

“I think he is ready for battle,” said Andrew Lincoln at New York Comic Con, discussing his character Rick Grimes’s state of mind leading into season eight of “The Walking Dead,” which premieres on Sunday, October 22. “Rick is very much like a shark: he needs to keep moving, otherwise he dies. I think giving him something to do with his grief and pain is essential, and I think kicking Negan’s ass is as good a reason as any.”

Season eight of “The Walking Dead” brings Rick to a much different place than he was in season seven, when the arrival of the sadistic Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and his army of “Saviors” pushed Rick and his community of survivors to their breaking point. Rick surrendered to Negan after suffering defeats and tragic personal losses — including the deaths of Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) and Glenn (Steven Yeun) and that time Negan almost forced Rick to chop off his own son’s arm. But no one is happier than Lincoln that Rick Grimes has gotten his fight back. “He’s free,” Lincoln explained. “He’s willing to put everything on the line, but I will never bow before [Negan] again … I’m so happy to be playing that man, and not last season’s Rick.”

But all that suffering will have been worthwhile when season eight unfolds: “They needed to break me down in order to come back stronger than ever,” Lincoln added, “and I certainly feel where we left last season is an indication of absolutely where we go this season. This is the payoff for last season, certainly in Rick’s terms … It’s eight years, a hundred episodes, and they keep pushing and pulling and hurting this man in new, fresh, and unimaginable ways … I think they just enjoy watching me cry.”

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