SFX historical note: Thought you might like to revisit this interview, considering Lincoln’s just about to make a splash in The Walking Dead
From This Life ’s chef Egg to Afterlife ’s egghead, life’s been a bit of a scramble for Andrew Lincoln. SFX catches up with him on the set of his new show
On a houseboat just opposite the Watershed complex in Bristol, Andrew Lincoln is making himself at home. “It’s nice this boat, isn’t it?” he asks SFX . This is the home of his character, psychology lecturer Dr Robert Bridge, in ITV1’s new supernatural chiller series Afterlife . Lincoln looks out over the River Avon. “It’s nice to be here. I was born nearby, in Bath,” he tells us.
Lincoln’s clearly having a privileged time on this series. Afterlife is set in Bristol and has a hefty dose of nearby Bath. “It’s great,” he beams. “I spent last week at my mum and dad’s!”
As SFX joins Lincoln, along with Afterlife creator Stephen Volk, on the houseboat, he’s just finished a heavy emotional scene, which was wrecked by Bristol’s pigeons. “I was just filming this quite emotional bit and I turn around and it’s like The Birds !”
Afterlife finds Lincoln in the oddest role of his career. From greasy spoon chef Egg in This Life to Keira Knightley’s suitor in Love Actually to the Generation X-ey Simon Casey in Teachers , he’s never done anything like this before. Divorced and with a dead child in his past, Robert Bridge is one screwed up academic. That is, until he meets Alison, a reluctant medium with whom he becomes entwined.
“What attracted me to him was that he had a life which was perfect,” Lincoln reflects, “and then something happened that shattered it and since then he’s been living in a kind of stasis. I also like the fact that he lives on a boat, it adds to his isolation. He specialises in belief systems. What you get in the series are two very broken human beings who kind of solve each others’ emotional needs.”
Lincoln says he was looking for something “unnerving and unsettling” to play with. “I think it’s a really difficult genre to get right, but at the heart of it are really well drawn, complicated human beings,” he says. “When I read the script it was a classic page turner. There aren’t many people that can write good dialogue and Stephen is one of those people. I said yes to it straight away.”
Like Volk, Lincoln says he’s in the sceptical camp as regards ghosts and spirits. At one point in the series, his character has a major speech stating that if a person isn’t there to witness it, a ghost doesn’t exist. “That’s kinda my belief,” he says. “There can be a rationale for everything and we address this kind of thing in Afterlife .”
Has he ever done Ouija boards?
“Only when I was 14 and trying to get a snog off someone!” he laughs.
What about a medium then?
“Hmm, it’s not really my bag,” he says. “But that’s probably good for Robert. I just think people look for significance in anything. People are in distressing situations when they approach these people and they’re looking for answers. When anyone’s faced with mortality, it’s the most frightening thing. No matter how good you are at justifying your existence and your purpose, when it’s slapped in your face, people do need something.”
Lincoln’s take on all this isn’t as black and white as believing and not believing. He sees a lot of echoes of magician/mindreader/psychologist/whatever Derren Brown in Afterlife .
“He’s very bright and he’s very good at reading people,” he says of Brown. “He’s kind of like the showman side of what Robert’s about, which is the intellectual side. With Brown, you’re dealing with the cusp of people’s belief systems. I read this thing that said that if you’re in a room with a group of people and you want people to believe something it takes three people to say something’s true. It doesn’t matter how smart you are, if one person says this is a fact, and is backed up by a second person, if another person does it, the rest will believe it. We’re sheep!”
Although he claims never to have a supernatural experience, he doesn’t see that as the key to his character’s world. This is an alienated, socially artless man who has experienced one of the worst pains a human can experience, the death of their child.
“Robert’s quite sick,” he says. “Robert’s there to investigate this area of Alison’s life, which is whether she’s schizophrenic or whatever.”
Lincoln’s quick to praise his co-star, Lesley Sharp. She was cast before Lincoln, having pushed ITV to get this series going, and was one of the reasons he signed so enthusiastically.
“Everyone’s approach to acting is completely different,” he says. “You meet people who can nail it instantly. You can just be chatting and they can quickly be mercurial in moving into character. Lesley’s very good at that. She’s one of the finest of our generation. What she’s doing is very classy and ambiguous and detailed. It’s just very good watching her!”
As Lincoln leaves, he looks out over the Bristol landscape. “I filmed Teachers here too,” he smiles. “It’s such a beautiful place. I’m waiting for the keys to the city now!”