We’re not used to Frank Castle getting all mushy, but The Punisher star Jon Bernthal did just that in a heartfelt letter he penned for EW about his old Walking Dead co-star Andrew Lincoln. Ahead of the British actor’s upcoming exit from the long-running AMC zombie drama, numerous TWD faces past and present shared their thoughts on what it’s like to work and be friends with Lincoln. All were touching, but Bernthal’s might be the most emotional of the lot.
In his piece, the actor who played Rick Grimes’ frenemy Shane for the show’s first two seasons opens up about how dear a friend Lincoln is and how much he credits him with his personal growth as a husband, father and performer.
“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.
It’s funny given how tempestuous Rick and Shane’s relationship was on screen that Lincoln and Bernthal were actually so close behind the camera. By the sounds of it, it must have been hard on both actors when Shane went off the deep end in season 2, leading to Rick having to shoot his former best friend, meaning that Bernthal left the show for new pastures.
Still, perhaps because he and Lincoln are such great pals, Bernthal’s decided to come back to The Walking Dead in season 9. No details about his return have been revealed as yet, but it’s not hard to decipher that Shane’s appearance will tie into Rick’s upcoming farewell. Obviously Shane couldn’t come back for real, so Bernthal’s cameo must take the form of a flashback or perhaps a vision or hallucination of some kind.
It’s something fans are looking forward to and, by the sounds of it, it must have been a treat for Lincoln and Bernthal to work together on The Walking Dead one last time.