For many fans of The Walking Dead, losing a central character like Rick Grimes, portrayed by Andrew Lincoln, probably feels like a gut-punch. But fans should rejoice to see the celebrated English actor return to the role one final time, as Entertainment Weekly has reported that Lincoln was originally supposed to leave last season.
In an interview with EW, Andrew Lincoln revealed that plans were in place for him to depart during Season 8. “Eight seasons was certainly something. Last season was a shape that I had in my head and it was certainly something that Scott [Gimple, executive producer] was possibly thinking about as well that was a completion of a certain chapter which could be called Rick’s falling,” Lincoln said.
The idea that Lincoln would leave the show after eight seasons was first contemplated during the show’s fourth season. “You know, [Gimple and I] shared young families, and there was a lot of synchronicity between the two of us that were two heads of a show that seemed to be getting bigger and bigger,” Lincoln told EW. However, Lincoln lamented that he wasn’t ready to move on. “I realized that rather than have the funeral, I had to prepare for the funeral and I had to make sure everybody was comfortable with the funeral arrangements. And I don’t think I was ready for the funeral! You know what I mean? I was like, I don’t think I’m ready to go yet!”
Lincoln confirmed his departure from AMC’s zombie-drama back in July during an SDCC 2018 panel. “This will be my last season,” Lincoln told the panel’s attendees. “I love this show, it means everything to me. I love the people who make this show–I promise not to cry, I’ve done enough crying on screen–I am also deeply fond of the people who watch this show, you people.”
While it may all sound like doom and gloom, it seems Lincoln could return to the show to direct. “I’m going back to shadow a director, and my intention is to direct next year.” There may be more of Andrew Lincoln after all.
Season 9 of The Walking Dead is set to air on October 7.