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Dead on arrival: Star Andrew Lincoln on the dramatic return of The Walking Dead

As hit zombie series The Walking Dead returns next week, Scene quizzes lead man Andrew Lincoln about following on from the cliffhanger climax of series six, which saw his Rick Grimes and co at the mercy of barbed baseball bat-wielding villain, Negan

The members of The Walking Dead gang who survive this nail-biting scene will face their toughest opponent yet in new villain, Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan)

WHAT amazes you most about the fact that we're now on the seventh series of The Walking Dead?

It amazes me that my boots are still attached to my feet.

Was it harder coming back this season knowing where you left off?

I didn’t fully take on board how hard it was going to be until the read through, and then it was... We’re going to have to do this. We’re going to have to do this episode.

It’s one thing reading a script. Then there’s actually having to do it. You get a sense of the summit you have to climb.

At what point in filming did you feel like you were back in production?

Pretty much the first day I felt it. Within about 20 minutes, I was in pain and said, "Ah... this is familiar. I must be home.”

This particular episode as well, because it’s a direct pick up (from last year's finale), it feels like no time has lapsed from the hiatus. It’s all very, very fresh.

What is the hardest part about knowing the outcome of the season seven premiere?

It’s the greatest television job I’ve had in my career, and it’s also the hardest because you know you’re saying farewell.

It’s the Nine Inch Nails song, "everyone I know goes away in the end." It’s unique in that way. It’s one of the excitements in that it keeps evolving. It has to by definition.

We’re telling a story and the story has to move forward.

What does the new villain Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) bring to the series?

We are seven years in and we are only unleashing now probably the greatest villain of the series. It’s a very thrilling and exciting time.

It does feel like we are smashing everything and starting over.

What makes Negan more of a threat than those Rick has been up against in the past?

The Governor was much more about secrets. You didn’t know what the

Governor was doing. Negan is very clear. He is very open with the people he meets. There is a charm, but there is a terrifying logic as well.

Has Rick met his match at this point?

Without a doubt he has, absolutely. Everything is changed. The playing field has irrevocably changed.

What does Jeffrey Dean Morgan bring to his portrayal of such a bad man?

Jeffrey Dean Morgan is amazing. He feels like a presence who has always been here. That’s how easy it has been for his assimilation.

He’s also having a lot of fun, which is key to this kind of role. You need to be having a great relish. I love acting with him. He’s so in it, and he makes great choices.

How do you hope the audience feels after they watch the Season 7 Premiere?

I hope they recognise the effort and the commitment that everybody – crew and cast – has put into this returning episode, like always. It’s palpable.

:: The Walking Dead, Monday October 24, 9pm, FOX

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