The Ones Who Live proves The Walking Dead failed its star

Jessica Cullen
Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes on The Walking Dead

Fans of The Walking Dead are back in the game thanks to The Ones Who Live, and it’s time we address how we never truly appreciated the show’s star.

The Ones Who Live has completely revitalized The Walking Dead just two years after the flagship show’s end. As the latest TWD spinoff in the franchise, fans have been eager to praise the articulate and concise tale of reunited love. But there’s another thing — or person — getting newfound appreciation, and it’s about damn time.

There was a time in the early ‘00s when AMC was airing The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, and Mad Men simultaneously. Each show began its run during the same three-year period, making this era not just one of the greatest times to be alive for high-quality television but also the beginning of world domination for three very different, very successful TV shows.

However, The Walking Dead never quite reached the same levels of prestige as Breaking Bad and Mad Men. This could partly be due to the fact that TWD is an incredibly genre-heavy show, effectively being a mainstream horror series. As such, the other two often dominated industry awards, earning (and winning) multiple Golden Globes and Emmy Awards.

Big competition

Most notably, Bryan Cranston and Jon Hamm were widely praised for their respective performances of Walter White and Don Draper. This is something The Walking Dead undeniably failed to replicate for its own star, Andrew Lincoln.

I won’t hesitate to say that while The Walking Dead had an excellent, capable cast, none were more integral to the show’s quality than Andrew Lincoln. As Rick Grimes, Lincoln carried the show on his back for eight years, and he did it without faltering. Rick Grimes is a character just as worthwhile as Walter White or Don Draper — a leader, a man weighed down by the expectations of those around him.

Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes on The Walking Dead

But where Walter and Don were morally questionable at best, Rick Grimes was a fighter for good amid the world’s crumbling humanity. As his world grows darker, it becomes harder for him to maintain the values he forever tried to instill in his community and his son. Lincoln always kept audiences on side with Rick’s sincerity and quest for reason, but he equally kept them on the edge of their seat with his quick-shooting, no-nonsense cowboy ways.

He was just as effective when weeping about a loss as he was executing bad guys, and that’s a hard balance for most actors to strike. It’s essential that the Walking Dead audience remained empathetic to Rick while still understanding that he’s not perfect. Unfortunately, despite his incredible efforts, Andrew Lincoln was not given the same accolades as his counterparts.

For comparison, Jon Hamm received eight Best Actor Emmy nominations during his tenure as Don Draper and won one. He was also nominated for five Golden Globes, winning one. Bryan Cranston was nominated for six Emmy Awards during his time on Breaking Bad. He won four. He was also nominated for four Golden Globe Awards — he won one. Andrew Lincoln, across eight years on The Walking Dead, was never nominated for an Emmy or Golden Globe once.

Justice for Andrew Lincoln

Granted, Lincoln did receive 22 nominations across the board at other awards, but when AMC’s other shows at the time were getting such prestigious acclaim, the difference can’t help but be noted. For the record, The Walking Dead was only ever nominated for one Golden Globe during its run (it lost to Boardwalk Empire), and it was nominated for 16 Emmys, winning two for Prosthetic Makeup. The consensus is clear: The Walking Dead was never taken as seriously as its small-screen brothers.

If any more evidence is needed to support the notion that Andrew Lincoln was effectively snubbed, then one only needs to look at the downturn in quality after he left in Season 9. The show continued for two more seasons after his departure, though fans quickly called for it to come to an end. When the heart stops beating, there’s no reason for the body to keep moving, and the same can be said of The Walking Dead.

Rick — and Lincoln’s depiction of him — was the heart and soul of that show. His performance ensured that The Walking Dead remained, at its core, a show about people. Andrew Lincoln ensured that Rick was the best and most important person.

But times are changing; Hollywood has started to take horror seriously. Just this year, Pedro Pascal won the Screen Actors Guild Award for playing Joel in HBO’s The Last of Us. The franchise is also reviving its goodwill with The Ones Who Live, which is now the best-rated show of the bunch. There’s no doubt in my mind that, had The Walking Dead had the same level of mass appreciation from audiences and creatives alike during its main run, Andrew Lincoln might have gotten his flowers.

For more on The Walking Dead, check out our guides on how to watch Fear the Walking Dead, The Ones Who Live, and Tales of the Walking Dead.

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About The Author

Jessica Cullen is a TV and Movies Writer at Dexerto. She's previously written for The Digital Fix, Cosmopolitan, Refinery29, and Slate. Aside from her Yellowstone obsession, she loves true crime, '90s action movies, and anything with a young Harrison Ford. You can email her here: