"Last season, a new character took over as lead of the show pretty much. Negan was introduced and we saw this whole new vista. You've got to go somewhere to get somewhere and I think they needed to break me down in order to come back stronger than ever before," Lincoln told reporters at New York Comic Con this month.
"This is the payoff for last season, certainly in Rick's terms. The thing I love about doing the job -- it's eight years, it's 100 episodes -- is that they keep pushing and pulling this man in new and fresh and unimaginable ways. ...
"I think they just enjoy watching me cry," the 44-year-old actor joked about the show's writers and producers.
Season 7 saw not only the introduction of Negan and the emotional disintegration of Rick, but also the deaths of fan favorite characters Glenn [played by Steven Yeun,] Abraham [played by Michael Cudlitz] and Sasha [played by Sonequa Martin-Green.]
Season 8 begins Sunday night on AMC and Lincoln promised Rick will return "ready for battle" against the guy who killed his friends.
"I've always said that Rick is very much like a shark. He needs to keep being, he needs to keep moving or else he dies. I think giving him something to do with his grief and his pain is essential and I think kicking Negan's ass is as good of a reason as any. So, I think he is very focused," Lincoln said.
"He is willing to put everything on the line, but will never bow before [Negan] again. It's a basically polar opposite Rick you see that begins this season and I am so happy to be playing that man and not last season's Rick."
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