Viewers have met a brand new Rick Grimes this season on "The Walking Dead." Following the time jump in the Season 3 premiere, we've learned that Rick has been hardened by the time the survivors have spent since leaving Hershel's farm in the Season 2 finale. But has he lost his humanity? That's something that remains to be seen.
Star Andrew Lincoln and executive producer Gale Anne Hurd held a conference call with members of the press Monday to discuss Sunday's episode, "Seed," as well as the rest of what they have planned season and CBR News was on hand to learn what we could about what plans to be the most treacherous season yet for Rick and the other survivors. The conversation lingered on the topic of this new, changed Rick, and Lincoln doesn't seem to think the central "Walking Dead" character is as far gone as he might seem.
"His humanity is pretty intact, but I think his ruthlessness or his decision making has very much moved into a Shane point of view," Lincoln said. "He is the most isolated within his group."
The actor continued, "He is sort of coming apart, but is doing a very good impersonation of someone holding it together at the moment."
Audiences can see that in his relationship -- or lack thereof -- with his wife Lori. Rick and Lori aren't on great terms, and, according to Lincoln, that moment at the end of "Sick" where Rick reaches out and touches her shoulder is the first time the two have touched in eight months. But while Lori sort of understands where Rick is coming from in his need to alienate himself from those around him, it's Daryl that Rick has the best connection with.
"There's an incredible mutual respect between the two of them," Lincoln said. "I think that out of everybody else, Daryl is the one who understands the burden of responsibility that Rick chooses to carry."
Lincoln also teased that these might be some interesting parallels between Rick and The Governor, who will finally be introduced in this Sunday's third episode. While the two characters might not share the same outlook on life, they can at least connect over their respective leadership roles when they finally meet in the series.
"I think the common bond of leadership is something that they'll recognize in one another," Lincoln said. "They don't have anyone to sort of share notes with. Yeah, perhaps The Governor is an evolution of Rick or a mirror of Rick a little further down the line. I always say that with Rick is that everything costs, every death, every responsibility for each death costs him."
This season, Lincoln promised fans will find out just what Rick's breaking point is. But while there will be various problems for the self-appointed leader of the survivors further down the road, for now his biggest issue is his strained relationship with his wife.
"I do think that the major problem is in his life is, now that he succeeded in securing the prison, is his relationship," Lincoln said, adding that he and actress Sarah Wayne Callies consider Rick and Lori to be each others' "first and last loves." "For the sake of everyone, they have to heal."
Even though there was a big time jump at the beginning of Season 3, don't expect the show to use flashbacks to catch viewers up on what happened during the intermittent time. This was a very intentional decision on the part of the producers to skip that period, and Hurd said the rest of Season 3 is about looking forward.
"Obviously a lot of thought was put into each and every character and what they were enduring, how they were handling that intervening time," she said. "I don't think an entire dossier was created by the writers room and I'm sure that each actor had a different approach for their own character, but we generally -- and this is not a hard and fast rule -- but we generally try not to do a lot of flashbacks in the show."
Lincoln elaborated on the actors' individual backstories, saying he had the cast over to his house so they could figure out what they think happened in the show's missing months. That's how they determined what their characters' routines were on the road, why Carl sided with his father instead of his mother and why Rick was so quick to chop off Hershel's leg when it was bitten by a walker.
"It was a conscious decision we made. Whether or not that comes across in the edit is none of our concern, " Lincoln said, adding that everything had already been determined and needed to look like there was an unspoken knowledge. He explained that the whole idea of quickly cutting off an infected appendage had already been discussed around a campfire when Season 3 kicks off. "That's why it was a decision that was made two months ago [in the show]. ... And that's what we play," he said.
Hurd described Season 3 as being "intense and pedal-to-the-metal," and said the survivors are at greater risk now that they've left Hershel's farm. But that's also because the introduction of The Governor and Woodbury is imminent, which adds an interesting fold to this story.
Next week's episode, "Walk With Me," will deal largely with Michonne and Andrea after the duo were absent this week. Hurd and Lincoln said it would be too much of a spoiler to reveal if the next few episodes deal with each group separately or if they are going to come together soon. But Hurd did say The Governor's approach to recreating civilization is as interesting as Rick's decision to take over The Prison was.
"He's much luckier and we'll see if he's smarter in being able to transform Woodbury later on in the season into a place that is a town," she teased. "He's trying to recreate civilization with a greater sense of normalcy. ... [But] what will humanity be like if they can relax for a little while?"
"The Walking Dead" airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on AMC.