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How Andrew Lincoln Stays Fit Enough to Slay Zombies

Andrew Lincoln’s in a T-shirt, gray shorts, and a pair of sneakers and is driving his Ford Fusion Hybrid through the streets of Inman Park, not far from the Atlanta home he rents for the seven or eight months he spends playing Rick Grimes in AMC's The Walking Dead each year.

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How Andrew Lincoln Stays Fit Enough to Slay Zombies

Andrew Lincoln’s in a T-shirt, gray shorts, and a pair of sneakers and is driving his Ford Fusion Hybrid through the streets of Inman Park, not far from the Atlanta home he rents for the seven or eight months he spends playing Rick Grimes in AMC's The Walking Dead each year.

He professes to have been wary of Atlanta and the clichés of the South when he first started The Walking Dead, but has since come to love the city. He and his family still spend nearly half the year in rural England, not far from Bath, southwest of London, where he grew up.

The younger of two brothers, Lincoln took up golf and cricket as a young boy, yet demonstrated, he insists, no great athletic prowess. (“He’s always saying he’s not good or not playing well, but his not playing golf well is better than most people’s ‘playing well,’ says producer Greg Nicotero.) He gravitated toward acting because, in his words, “drama was th best way to meet girls. Why else would you start something where you have to put on makeup?”

His father, a civil engineer, scoffed at the notion of Lincoln becoming an actor. But he told his son that if he could get into all five of England’s elite drama schools, then he’d support his ambition. Lincoln accomplished that feat and settled on RADA, moving to London when he was 17. He met his wife, Gael Anderson, the daughter of Jethro Tull frontman Ian Anderson, on the set of the British show Teachers. She was a spiky-haired production assistant who refused to make him a cup of tea.

You never know who’s gonna die,” he says. “And that’s sure true this season. Yeah! I may be gone.”

“I was like, ‘This is bullshit.’ But I couldn’t get her out of my head.” Two kids later, the marriage is going strong, and Lincoln can draw on his own experiences as a father to share Rick Grimes’ emotional life: “You always pull from you. I mean, it would be insane if you didn’t pull from who you are.”

After he parks, he stands and stretches, twisting his shoulders and rotating his core. He’s naturally lean, a classic ectomorph, and it’s easy to see how he struggles to bulk up, as he did before Season 4. He’s a natural distance runner who’ll do five miles in the Georgia heat. But that year, he hired a trainer, who ordered him to halt the distance running, add in rapid sets with free weights, and cut out carbs and sugars. He hated the dietary routine. “Why would you do that to yourself, man?” he asks.

Shooting The Walking Dead is in itself a grueling workout, says Lincoln. There’s the mud, the heat, the humidity, the bugs—and the cast stays on set for all of it. Dead actor Steven Yeun agrees: “We’re working these hard hours in the sun. Everyone should be breaking down; we should have divas, these Hollywood clichés,” says Yeun. “But no, there’s Andy, and he’s showing up and pushing it harder than anyone. He’s the culture of the show. I mean, if your No. 1 guy isn’t a diva, then who can be?”

We go to an Italian restaurant, where Lincoln scarfs down fried calamari and a salad, and sips a Diet Coke—he hasn’t had a drink in five years—and speaks to the waitress in his Rick Grimes drawl. He shakes his head. “I know, it’s weird. I feel like I’m betraying them if I don’t speak as they know me. It’s just the way I work. My wife and kids are like, ‘You’re going to be doing that for seven or eight months?” It’s also his way of keeping his dialect sharp. “I’ve got enough zombies to worry about, you know? There’s an apocalypse to deal with.” He starts laughing and takes another swig of his Diet Coke.

Lincoln calls this season’s storyline the “most frightening” to date. “You never know who’s gonna die,” he says. “And that’s sure true this season. I mean, it’s already pretty intense, and now it’s moving into Heart of Darkness territory. Yeah! I may be gone.” I stare at him. Could the hero really die in the finale?

He shrugs and smiles. You can already hear the fanboy outcry if it happens. Lincoln, meanwhile, isn’t the type to dwell on it. He’ll just tee it up and take another swing.

Courtesy of Men’s Fitness