The Walking Dead creator confirms that Andrew Lincoln is leaving the show

It’s official: Andrew Lincoln will be leaving The Walking Dead in its ninth season.

News broke in May that the show’s leading man, who plays Alexandria leader Rick Grimes, would only have a reduced role in the upcoming season before bowing out completely — but producers have never confirmed that news. Until now.

In an interview with Kevin Smith for IMDb taped ahead of Comic-Con International, Walking Dead comic creator and TV series executive producer Robert Kirkman acknowledges that “it’s looking” like Lincoln will walk away.

“He cares about the fans,” Kirkman tells Smith of Andrew Lincoln. “He cares about the show deeply. He wants to do something special on the way out.”

The producer then teases: “We’ve got something amazing planned. I wouldn’t want to spoil anything, but anybody who’s been a fan of his journey, who loves Rick Grimes, who loves the world of The Walking Dead, you’re going to want to see what we do.”

We may already have an idea of what that plan may entail. Former series actor Jon Bernthal is expected to return for one episode as part of Lincoln’s send-off, despite the fact that his character Shane died seasons ago.

For a full rundown on how it’s possible for Shane to suddenly be back from the dead (or not, as it were), click here for our full rundown. Producers have also started preparing for life after Rick Grimes by casting several major characters from Kirkman’s comic books, lining up big stars to play Luke, Yumiko and Connie in the episodes ahead.

There is also a reported $20 million deal on the table for original cast member Norman Reedus to make his character Daryl the central focus of The Walking Dead moving forward, since Lauren Cohan could also be leaving the show.

The Walking Dead airs on AMC in the US and on FOX and NOW TV in the UK.

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