Andrew Lincoln was a surprise casting as Rick Grimes, though he's more than proved his worth.
The Walking Dead's Andrew Lincoln was living a pretty stress free life in Britain. After graduating from the super-competitive Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, he landed a part in the BBC series This is Life before going on to split his time between television, theater and movies.
Andrew Lincoln Beat 100 Rivals To 'The Walking Dead' Lead
After the success of Channel 4's Teachers, Lincoln had a solid reputation - in British acting circles at least - and a handful of movies followed, including the smash hit romantic comedy Love Actually. Though the 40-year-old was in work, he'd hardly set the screen alight.
"There was no plan," he told Men's Health during an interview. Lincoln was approaching the dangerous acting period of the mid-30s and having welcomed his first child, the actor decided it was time to "man up" and began looking at bigger roles.
When his agent suggested he audition for a new AMC zombie show titled The Walking Dead, Lincoln began doing his research. Having never heard of Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore's graphic novel, the actor visited a comic-book store and saw an entire wall dedicated to the series.
He set to work and made a tape of himself speaking in a Southern accent. The long nights caring for his new born child had made his traditional good looks take on a haggard form - something that worked perfectly.
"When I auditioned, I looked like a zombie as my baby son had just been born and I hadn't slept for four days. Maybe that helped," he told the Sun at the time.
Lincoln beat 100 rivals for the part of the Kentucky policeman.
Andrew Lincoln As Rick Grimes
"It was a big surprise to me." Lincoln told MTV News of landing the role. "I'm from London, I grew up in the West Country... But I think there was something that Frank [Darabont] responded to when I put myself on tape."
After getting the good news, the actor moved out to America almost immediately to begin prepping for the part. "I've played a New York lawyer before, so I knew the East Coast, and I also knew the West Coast, but I'd never been to the South, the southern states," he explained. "So I got out early, I got a sense of place, I spoke to people, [and] I worked with a very, very good dialect coach."
Perfecting the accent was clearly important to Lincoln, though executive producer Gale Anne Hurd hinted that the casting panel weren't familiar with the actor and didn't necessarily know he was British before watching the tape.
Andrew Lincoln Adopted A Southern Accent For His Walking Dead Audition
When asked about the influx of Brits and non-Americans playing Southerners on U.S. television, she told Hypable.com, "When we do the casting, all of the auditions are posted on the website, and we don't know necessarily where they're from. So it's completely equal opportunity. It just so happened that Andrew Lincoln and Lauren Cohan and David Morrissey all are based in the U.K."
The Walking Dead has received a slew of awards since its opening season, including ones for Writers Guild of America Award and the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series. It received 12.4 million viewers for its season three finale to become the most watched drama series telecast in basic cable history.
The Walking Dead season four premieres on AMC on Sunday (October 13, 2013).