After months of reports and speculation, Andrew Lincoln officially announced at this weekend’s The Walking Dead panel at San Diego Comic-Con that he’s going to leave the zombie drama behind after the upcoming ninth season. Seeing as the British actor has been the protagonist of the show since the very beginning, this is arguably the biggest exit TWD‘s ever had.
Fans might wondering how this groundbreaking move came about, though. Last season, for instance, Chandler Riggs left the show and while at first it was assumed the young actor had decided to move on, it was revealed later that the decision came from the writers who wanted to kill Carl off. So, was the death of Carl’s dad Rick similarly a story-led decision, or did it come from Andrew Lincoln himself?
Well, the answer seems to be the latter and, what’s more, he’s been entertaining the idea for a while now. Speaking at SDCC, the actor explained that the impetus for his leaving actually began back in The Walking Dead season 4, when he spoke with then showrunner Scott Gimple about the future of the series. Now that these plans have come to fruition, Lincoln felt that it was time to move on, especially as it meant seeing his children more often.
“Well, nine years I was thinking about it, because that’s where we live. [laughs] But I suppose it was a lot to do with a conversation Scott and I had a few years ago, maybe in Season 4, about a shape, and finding some way to complete something that was never going to be completed. And then not, obviously, disturbing the mothership. There was a certain sense that the story has been a man waking up, and you experience this world through one man’s eyes, and it opens up into the extended family.
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Continuing on, he said:
Now, what’s exciting for me is that the narrative is being freed up, and it’s already being freed up from the beginning of this season. You’ll see from the trailer it’s a different tone. It feels like the show I always felt like we would head toward when we wrapped the pilot. And so yeah, in short, it was something that I started to think about as my children got older and less portable.”
As for the method of how Rick will be written out of the show, we don’t yet know whether he’ll take the traditional TWD route of being killed off in some gruesome, emotionally-devastating fashion or if, just maybe, he’ll survive and simply move on to pastures new. You might think the second option unlikely, but Lincoln reminded us at SDCC that Morgan Jones recently did something similar at the end of season 8.
All we know for sure right now is what creator Robert Kirkman said over the weekend, which is that Rick’s exit will please “anybody who’s been a fan of his journey” as he and the rest of The Walking Dead team have “got something amazing planned.” And we’ll begin to see what that is when the series returns to AMC on October 7th.