As AMC's The Walking Dead readies for its Sunday, October 7th return for a ninth season – and with it the end of Andrew Lincoln's incredible 9-season run as Rick Grimes on the series – nearly two dozen current and past cast members and creators are getting a chance to have their their say on the influence the actor had on and off-screen on both the series and those around him. Nearly two dozen submitted personal written tributes to the actor; and while you can find all of the "letters" over at Entertainment Weekly's site, here are three favorites:
"Andy is the best leading man on television, and a glowing example of what everyone that's come onto this show has tried to follow, and he's done that since day one. He's always been the first person to say hello, he's always been the first person to offer help, he's always been the first person to put himself out there beyond what his job asks him to do. He's the first person there, and he's the last person left. And he wants to talk about it, which is exhausting at times. But he wants to break it down, he wants to put it back together. He wants to talk about your parts, my parts, everyone's parts. Watching how much time Andy puts into his job inspires other actors on the show to put the same amount of time in.
When my role on the show started to change was when he and John Bernthal started including me in scenes on decisions. And I don't know if it was ever said to anybody. I think they kind of just did it naturally. When we would go to inspect something and talk about what the plan was, instead of Shane and Rick just looking to each other and talking about it, they started looking to me too. That helped propel my character into one of the leaders on the show, and those two actors did that naturally. All of a sudden, I was included and I wasn't just the outside guy throwing squirrels and wanting to stab people and shit. They transformed my character into something else whether they know it or not.
I can honestly say Andy's made me a better actor, a better friend, and even a better father because I see how hard he works at keeping his family life and his work life. It's easier for me. My son's in New York. I can bounce on a plane and bounce there for the weekend for the days I have off, but his family's all the way in England. So to watch him balance that and balance work — it's been an admirable thing to watch. I can't say enough good things about that guy. Why he doesn't have 15 freakin' Emmys right now blows my mind."
– Norman Reedus
"Andy is all about manners. "Never," he would often say, "lose your manners." I watched this function as his guiding principle for seven seasons and watched how it created an amazing work environment. I always say he hatched from an egg because he's such a rare breed. It really amazed me when I joined the show in 2012, the lead actor was selfless, eager for all to excel, celebratory, passionate, funny and kind to boot. He also had an endless well of joy. I've often called it a childlike joy. Boundless, resilient and light. Every day, he walked into the hair and makeup trailer, at whatever wretched hour and just overflowed with positivity and affection. And that overflow was infectious. It made this job that much more enjoyable, for everyone including cast and crew. His unfailing focus and passion kept us all, like him, ready to give it our all. Many would come to our cast and comment on how they had never experienced anything like it. We were, as a result of his astounding example and spirit, a merry band of apocalyptic survivors.
For me, he was an anchor, as a leader must be, but he was also someone who never failed to effortlessly earn my deepest respect. I spent many a long, long work day in sweltering hot Georgia with Andy, and watched how this man never tired, never stopped giving more than 100 percent, and kept everyone around him motivated and excited to be there. And never, ever did he lose his manners. There is always a way to achieve your goals, even handle highly intense situations without losing one's manners. It was an amazing example to be guided by, especially in this day and age, when vitriol is one tweet away. It's a principle that has nourished me in my profession, and my life. Whatever egg he hatched from, we need to get to cloning it because the world would be so much better with more Andy Lincoln in it!"
– Danai Gurira
"It was just after first light, and my phone was ringing. "Yeah, hello" my voice croaked. "Welcome to the family." It was Andy Lincoln, his voice just as thrashed as mine. We had just finished pulling an all-nighter… the season finale of season 6, and the introduction of Negan. The night was not only intense and emotional as hell acting-wise, but it meant saying goodbye to two people that had been on the show for years, two people that were beloved by all. It had been both simultaneously an amazing and yet, a s—ty night. For everyone. But there was this part of me that felt like I was partly responsible for destroying a family. Acting… Yes. It was. Yet, it was more than that… This WAS a family.
Andy certainly didn't owe me that call, and yet, there he was… not only welcoming me and thanking me for the work, but embracing me as one of his own. One of their own. It's a microcosm of the kind of guy Andy is; he's number one on the call sheet, the true leader of our show, and trust me… it ALL, always trickles down from the top. He's the top. He is the patriarch of The Walking Dead family and he leads with his heart, passion, excitement, and love… as well as some really bad singing. (Usually right before the camera rolls.) There is no replacing him. Nor will we try. I love the man. Not only as an actor and an inspiration, but most importantly as a friend. I will miss him every single day, I DO miss him every single day.
But the thing that I, and we all, should take solace in, is that Andy put his blood, sweat, tears into The Walking Dead. Literally. And now? He gets to do that very thing with his beautiful family. A family that shared their husband, father, and son with us for almost a decade. I adore Andy's family, and really, I can't thank them enough for letting us borrow him for as long as we did. But most importantly, I am so thankful for Andy, the irreplaceable brother. It's been an honor and a privilege. After he called me that first night, he texted me, reiterating his words, "Welcome to the family." I'm still not sure why he sent that text… maybe he thought I didn't believe him, I'm not sure and I never asked, but I saved that text from four years ago, and I'll save it forever. We may have turned the page on this chapter… but it's a big-ass book, and I can't wait to turn the page to our next adventure together. Xojd"
– Jeffrey Dean Morgan