As we look forward to the return of The Walking Dead this Sunday, October 7th, there is still something we are not ready to face this season – Rick Grimes’ (Andrew Lincoln) departure. When rumors surfaced that Lincoln would be leaving the show, fans were left in a frenzy. On the series’ panel at San Diego Comic-Con back in July, Lincoln finally confirmed that season 9 was, indeed, his last season.
Although it was such a shock to us fans, showrunner Angela Kang, as well as the rest of the cast and crew knew of the news long before. “It definitely wasn’t something he sprung on us at the last minute,” Kang tells The Hollywood Reporter about how Lincoln alerted the Walking Dead powers that be about his exit. “It was under discussion for a long time. He takes the job so seriously, is so lovely and wonderful to work with, and he wanted to make sure we had time to figure out our story and take care of that business.”
When there was no way for Lincoln to avoid the rumors, Kang knew the fans would eventually find out the truth. “There’s a part of me that’s very pragmatic,” she explains. “My point of view about the whole thing was, ‘We can try to hold onto [the secret], but it’s probably going to leak. Everything leaks! We have to be prepared for that.’ What comes out of that is fans have the chance to choose to opt in to watch the final journey with him.”
The writer of the The Walking Dead comic book series, Robert Kirkman has kept Rick alive. It is no doubt he wanted to keep the same route for the show. “For Robert, Rick is obviously such a big part of the comics,” says Kang. “He would have loved for Rick to stay for the length of the series, as all of us would have. But we’re dealing with human beings. We’re dealing with flesh and blood. [Lincoln] needs to be with his young children and have more flexibility in his life. Robert definitely got it. He knew for years that this day would come.”
As Rick Grimes’ days are numbered, there are a lot of theories created as to the manner he would depart. Kang says, “there were a lot of conversations about the ways in which we create a satisfying story for Rick. What are the important things we’ve seen from Rick in the past? What is his legacy? That was the big conversation we had early on. They took some time to discuss. From there, we jumped into breaking the season.”
Tune in to AMC on Sunday to watch the season nine premiere of The Walking Dead.
— The Walking Dead AMC (@WalkingDead_AMC) September 29, 2018