Back in June when I visited the set of "The Walking Dead," series producer (and pilot episode writer/director) Frank Darabont likened lead actor Andrew Lincoln to veteran western star Gary Cooper. The filmmaker went on compare the general tone of "The Walking Dead" to classic westerns, despite the modern setting and ever-present threat of flesh-hungry zombies.
When Lincoln dropped by Splash Page HQ recently, I asked him about Darabont's comments, and whether he felt that western vibe while portraying Rick Grimes, the former police officer searching for his family in a dangerous, post-apocalyptic landscape.
"We had a long conversation before I got on the plane for the screen test," Lincoln told MTV News of his early discussions with Darabont. "Frank skyped me and we spoke for about an hour and a half about his ideas for the show and my ideas about Rick and where we sort of met [and our] influences and ideas."
"Certainly, there were sequences in the first episode where it did feel like a modern western," he said.
Lincoln said the award-winning filmmaker asked him to spend some time studying two very distinct projects: AMC's ongoing series "Breaking Bad" and the films of Gary Cooper. For the latter, Lincoln drew on 1952's "High Moon" (among other films), which allowed him to flesh out who Rick Grimes was — and who he definitely was not.
"He's not like a Clint Eastwood character. He's not the man with no name," said Lincoln of the lessons he learned from "High Moon" and the way Cooper's character differs from subsequent western heroes. "He has a family, responsibilities. He's an everyman. These are themes that I really responded to."
As for "Breaking Bad," Lincoln said it wasn't any specific character that he drew from, but rather the tone and approach to storytelling used in the series.
"What AMC does so marvelously is they ask the audience to come to the show rather than the other way around," he explained. "'Breaking Bad' is a perfect example of this. It just says, 'Wait, come with us.' They don't flatter to deceive with jump-cutting and loud music. They trust the integrity of the story and the characters, and I think that's exactly what Frank did."
"The Walking Dead" premieres Halloween night, October 31, at 10 PM EST on AMC. The series stars Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Jeffrey DeMunn, Laurie Holden, Chandler Riggs, Sarah Wayne Callies, and Steven Yeun, among other notable actors. Keep it locked to Page all week for more "The Walking Dead" news, interviews, clips, and giveaways!