[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Image Comics' The Walking Dead.]
AMC's The Walking Dead is about to get political.
As if Rick declaring that his group wasn't a democracy anymore and creating what has become known as the "Ricktatorship" weren't enough, the band of survivors -- if the comics are any indication -- are heading toward what could only be described as an epic confrontation with the Governor.
When season two of the zombie drama left off, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and company were fleeing the burning farm after it was overtaken by walkers, just moments after having to put down his best friend, Shane (Jon Bernthal).
Season three picks up with the group having survived the winter and inching closer to the prison first seen in the closing moments of the finale. Elsewhere, Walking Dead newcomer David Morrissey's the Governor -- one of the comic series most brutal villains -- has established his own community in nearby Woodbury, setting up a potential conflict between the living. (Remember, season three's tagline is "Fight the Dead, Fear the Living.)
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Lincoln and Morrissey to talk season three, how the Governor compares to his comic book counterpart, how the Ricktatorship may have prepared Rick for their confrontation and how both compare as leaders as part of our seven days of Walking Dead coverage leading up to Sunday's return.
How will Rick grieve over his role in Shane's death?
Andrew Lincoln: He'll punish himself. Lori says when Rick confesses, it wasn't the fact that he'd killed Shane but the fact that he wanted to do it that made her recoil. They haven't looked at each other for a long time and Lori and I made a conscious decision to not make eye contact while playing it because every time they do look at each other it burns with guilt over Shane. The pain of the mother and father of the group not talking is that nothing is said because nothing can be said because they're so desperate. He's in a very cold place and that said, he drives the group forward as a great general and realizes that the prison could be they're saving grace and the citadel that could be the place where they can really start again from. It's an extraordinary brutal beginning to the season but the writers wanted to do that to show the cost of getting into the prison. It's a family drama set in hell.
What's Rick's breaking point this season as he contends with Lori's pregnancy and the impending arrival of the Governor?
Lincoln: We find out this season. The human threat is a far more prominent foe. That was also a very important thing that the writers wanted to show: how methodical the group could be in killing the walkers. They're becoming incredibly accomplished as a unit fighting the undead. It's almost telepathic: they're one organism because they've had to survive in silence for so long. That's how desperate they've become. The leadership qualities that Rick has that make him a good leader also become his biggest weaknesses. He will always lead to the weakest link: so the baby, if indeed the baby is born, will be a huge problem. In every situation, they're vulnerable if indeed they stay at the prison. His greatest strength is also his Achilles. For all intents and purposes, this group is all he's got and it could be all of humanity.
How has the Ricktatorship that emerged last season prepared him to face the Governor?
Lincoln: The Ricktatorship, when he says it isn't a democracy anymore was born out of extreme conditions -- they'd just been swarmed, we just lost lots of people, Rick had just killed Shane and they had nowhere else to go and are on the run again and everybody is falling apart. It was a wakeup call. It was more about stopping the blood flow rather than laying down policy. So when you meet them again, Rick has proven himself as a leader; no one has died and that's not even in question anymore. He's the leader. That fundamental idea of, "It's my way or the highway," it doesn't mean anything anymore because it's just a fact: he's the leader. What is evident is that he has moved much more toward a Shane-style decisionmaking. There is an almost reactive brutality to him where if there's a threat, it's a done deal that Rick will deal with it. It's an adaptation of Shane.
How does your version of the Governor compare to the comics?
Morrissey: The comic character is much further in his psychological journey than our Governor. I start him earlier in his process. When we meet him in the book, he's a bad-ass straight off the bat doing evil things quite quickly. My character is not like that. We start him earlier in his genesis and he's a man running this town successfully and it's all about security and making sure you live in a secure place and anyone that does anything to unbalance or threaten that, then he'll come down on them like a ton of bricks and that's where his other side lives. He has certain psychological secrets as well which the audience gets to share. For all intents and purposes, for his populace and the people who meet him, he's a good guy. He's someone who's running the town as well as he can. He's much more of a politician and more of a man who is doing things that we as an audience will understand: how do our leaders keep the hostility at bay. It's very much a hawks and dove argument all the time in Woodbury and he's in the middle of it. He's a man who is emerging into the world. He's created this village in this place but he is growing himself as new things are coming at him. He has a plan for the village but he doesn't have a plan for the whole world and that's what's emerging in front of him.
The Governor in the comics has more of a conscience -- he has a daughter who's been turned and is struggling to find a cure for her, which prompts him to do some really outrageous things. Does your Governor have that same conscience?
Morrissey: He has a conscience and a pretty warped humanity. People who seek power have a certain psyche that is quite worrying. I don't think the Governor has that psyche; he has the power that's been given to him by the people around him. He didn't have this power in his previous life and he takes that responsibility very seriously but also power is a great corruptor and it's an aphrodisiac. It's a thing that can turn good men bad and good men do terrible things: can you do things that look terrible but you can square with your own conscience? The Governor does have a conscience but what he can square with it, maybe you and I couldn't.
How do Rick and the Governor compare as leaders?
Lincoln: They share a common bond of leadership. They're two people that have been thrown into this place where they probably don't even want the responsibility but they chose to do it. For Rick, every death on his hands costs him but maybe the Governor has a different rationale and has a different way of dealing with things that makes him different.
Morrissey: The main difference is Rick's group are nomads, they're looking for a place to settle and they might have found that in the prison. The Governor has found that and created that place and it works -- your kids can run out in the street and you cannot worry about them, you can feed and clothe them and educate them and have hot showers. He's created this place and he's done it with a bit of an iron fist and he's constantly wondering about the iron fist and the kit glove: which one do I wear today. He and Rick as leaders share certain problems.
What are you looking forward to seeing for the Rick and the Governor? Hit the comments with your thoughts. The Walking Dead season three premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC. Check back to THR's The Live Feed every day this week for the Seven Days of The Walking Dead preview.