Rick and Lori Grimes are the heart of "The Walking Dead."
So it doesn't help that in Season 3, the pair, played by Andrew Lincoln and Sarah Wayne Callies, can't get along much less look at each other.
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When the second episode -- the first pulled in nearly 11 million viewers -- airs Sunday, fans will experience more contemptuous exchanges and uncomfortable conversations. Spoiler: After all, there's a lot at stake with Hershel (Scott Wilson) fighting for his life. Meanwhile, Rick, Lori and the gang also have to contend with a group of prisoners who have a bunch of questions and unknown motives.
Plus: 'Walking Dead' fantasy draft | TV's scariest series
Just in time for Season 3, Lincoln and Callies sat down and talked to MSN TV about the new season, Rick and Lori's troubled relationship and what's next. "The Walking Dead" airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on AMC.
MSN TV: Can you talk about Rick and Lori and where their relationship stands in Season 3?
Andrew Lincoln: We're in the worst place pre-apocalypse. It's caused a possibly irrevocable rift between the two of them although there is some movement and certainly, in the first few episodes, they're trying to -- for the sake of the group and themselves -- heal this rift.
Sarah Wayne Callies: It's a situation I don't think they would ever try and recover from were it not the end of the world and everyone else they know is dead. Last season people were always asking, "Why doesn't Lori just kick Shane (Jon Bernthal) out of the group." And the answer was always, "There are only three people alive who knew her six weeks ago." You can't overestimate the power of that. And now Shane's gone. Rick and Lori, you know we grew up together. We've been together since high school. So you know, were it not for the end of the world, we would just go our separate ways. There's been too much pain and too much loss. At this point, you sort of go, "I can't bring myself to leave. I can't bring myself to look at you. I don't know where that leaves us." And we've been festering in that for months.
How do you tackle that as actors?
Andrew Lincoln: We made a conscious decision not to make eye contact. Just because every time we look at each other it burns with guilt and shame from what's happened. It's that thing of having history. "The Road" was the important book for this season. Last season it was "Lonesome Dove" for me. But this season it was "The Road." It's a beautiful thing. They're starting to forget the past. Words mean less. That's why holding on to your history means everything in this apocalypse. They have to make it work.
Sarah Wayne Callies: What I think is interesting, is that what's gone wrong between them is not that I told him to watch his back and he killed Shane. I think that we were very clearly on the same page that that had to happen. In some ways, that was a big success. You know I warned my husband that someone was going to try and kill him, he tried to kill him and the right man came out of the fight.
But then he tells me, "I wanted him dead." And I recoil from him instead of embracing him and making him feel safe. That's one of the things I love about how this marriage has been written. This is not a couple that's pissed off because she had an affair and he killed the guy. Whatever. That's the obvious version. This is a couple that's heartbroken because she's afraid that he has turned into Shane by killing him. And he needed her in that moment to just say, "You're a good man. I forgive you and I love you." And she instead backed off. When we shot it, I spat in his face but they didn't go for that. It's too bad.
Andrew Lincoln: I wanted the spit version.
Sarah Wayne Callies: I know. Me too.
Is the strength of this show that it goes against conventional TV thinking? On most TV shows, the good guy stays the good guy but your character has changed completely.
Andrew Lincoln: I don't know. That was one of the things that attracted me to the role is that he goes on this extraordinary journey -- this deterioration and huge change because of the environment and everything that happens to him. That was a huge traction to why I wanted to play the role. I think it's all of the characters. It's not just him. I love that everyone tries to explain the alchemy and I really wish I knew. All I know is that when we filmed it, it's the same crew that has worked through all three years and they are magnificent and they care about this.
Everybody is a huge fan. They get the scripts and they peel them open just as voraciously as we do. They can't wait. They want to tell this great story with these amazingly complicated but true characters. It reminds me of "The Magnificent Seven". It's got those sort of old ideas and old archetypes within it but then they invert it. They go against the norm. I suppose if you're doing serialized TV, you want to keep surprising the audience and I know they sit in the writers' room going, "What do we do next?"
Sarah Wayne Callies: It is a part of what works on our show but it's also more than just our show. I was watching the Emmys and people keep talking about this Golden Age of television. What serialized cable dramas have given us is the opportunity to not simply tell the same story with slightly different words and costumes every week. But you think about something like "Breaking Bad." The evolution of that character is enormous. What's happening in television right now is people are really mining the ability of storytellers to tell a long-form story that goes from A to Z and trust that an audience will follow that. Storytelling in television is getting more complex and more nuanced.
Andrew Lincoln: I think you're right. You reward the audience with something that you laid in the first season and reveal in the third season. It's a beautiful thing. As a writer, what a great opportunity.
In the second episode Lori tells Rick to do what he has to do with the prisoners. Does she really believe that or is she just trying to make things work?
Sarah Wayne Callies: I think Lori is really clear on her husband being the right man to lead the group. And whatever he needs from her, to be a better leader, is what she will give him. In Season 1 and Season 2, there was a lot of, "I don't know if this is the right call." What I saw is that discordance between us caused him to second guess himself and there were a lot of challenges there and I think she's taking a new tack -- which is not, "stand by your man no matter what" but "trust the man." They've divided this world and she's saying, "You handle what's out there. I will handle what's in here."
Andrew Lincoln: That's the beautiful thing. You don't want to be a burden at any cost. It's such a brave thing. We've got a baby. It's the worst pressure that you could possibly have. But Sarah made this fantastic choice as an actress to say, "I'm going to put no burden on you." He does it himself. He's Job, this dude, and he's testing himself. The fundamental difference between him and the Governor (David Morrissey), is the burden of responsibility and guilt that he carries. I'm not sure that the Governor -- I wouldn't want to speak for another actor -- but I'm not sure that he carries that. I think he sees the world for what it is. It's more of a nihilistic kind of view. He says, "This is the new world now." And he's able to detach himself from it. I'm not.
How does the tension between Lori and Rick affect Carl?
Andrew Lincoln: His story is the story I'm most fascinated by this year.
Sarah Wayne Callies: It's complicated. I think Carl (Chandler Riggs) is probably the most affected by the rift between Rick and Lori. (Glen) Mazarra (executive producer) and I were talking about this before the season started. Children are so adaptable and they really can adapt themselves to almost any circumstance accept for the divorce of their parents or the death of a parent. There's something to be said that nothing -- killing Shane as a zombie, feeling responsible for Dale's death, seeing Sophia die -- nothing has been harder on Carl than seeing his parents separate, which is more or less what's happened. His journey this season is a very, very complicated one.
Whether Rick can ever bring himself to forgive Lori and Lori Rick, those are mature questions. Carl is handling them as a boy soldier, who has one little box for his emotions that he shoves them into and slams the lid on and then arms himself to deal with this world. And Chandler does it beautifully.
Andrew Lincoln: Yeah, watch out for the kid this season. He is amazing.
Sarah Wayne Callies: The level of nuance in his work is terrifying.
Andrew Lincoln: I'm convinced he's a 45 year old.
Will things get better for Rick and Lori?
Sarah Wayne Callies: What I love about these two is they love each other on a cellular level. Lori does not know who she would be without Rick in her life. At a certain level everything they're doing, they're doing for each other. It's this weird "Gift of the Magi" thing going on between the two of them. It's, "I can't look at you. I can't talk to you. I'm so ashamed. I'm so heartbroken. But I will kill myself to make sure you don't have to be in pain." I so want a happy ending for them. I want the series to end with the two of them in the back of a convertible.
Do you think that connection is what has kept them and everybody else sane?
Andrew Lincoln: I read "The Things They Carried" and it's a brilliant novel by Tim O'Brien about the Vietnam War. It's magnificent because it's exactly what this feels like. Everybody hasn't got time to process what's happening. But there will come a time when they will have to deal with the shockwave of the daily trauma that they live through.
Sarah Wayne Callies: Let me put it this way, if the prison were perfectly safe and we closed the doors and there were a 10-year supply of food and we grew gardens and everything was fine -- unicorns and ponies running through the halls -- these people would still have ahead of them a long road of pain and healing and grief. They haven't even scratched the surface because they haven't slept two nights in the same place in six or eight months. When you layer on top of that, "Here comes the Governor," things just keep getting thicker and thicker.
"The Walking Dead" airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on AMC.