Andrew Lincoln has been a fixture on British television since 1996, but it took AMC’s hit “The Walking Dead” to introduce the English actor to American TV auds.

While some may remember him as the love-stricken best friend who orchestrated the “All You Need Is Love” scene in “Love Actually,” most now know Lincoln as the Southern-fried sheriff Rick Grimes, a man who rides into a zombie-ravaged Atlanta on a horse with a bag of guns at his side.

Shortly after Lincoln sent off his audition tape for the lead role, exec producer Frank Darabont invited him out to Los Angeles to do a screen test … in his garage.

“It was quite entertaining,” Lincoln recalls, “but after that, I found out relatively quickly that I had gotten the part.”

Even then, Lincoln was cautious about getting his hopes too high, especially since AMC was hedging its bets with short, six-episode first season.

“I’m old enough and ugly enough now to know that you can never guarantee a reaction like the one we received,” he says.

That reaction was nothing short of stellar. The pilot drew 5.3 million viewers, making it the most-watched premiere of any AMC series; the season finale fared even better with 6 million viewers, a series high.

It was official: Lincoln’s portrayal as the reluctant leader of the living would survive long enough to see a second season.

Now with a full order of 13 episodes ahead of him, Lincoln’s ready to get back to work.

“It’s exciting having the prospect of a full season,” he says. “I know Frank has some extraordinary things in store for these characters. And, as much as I love talking to you, this is not my day job. I’ve got a zombie apocalypse to deal with.”

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