It’s fairly well-documented at this point that Andrew Lincoln is leaving The Walking Dead during season 9. What’s a little more surprising was finding out just how long this move was in the works.
Speaking in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Lincoln himself noted that there were first some conversations surrounding his departure all the way back in season 4, but didn’t end up getting to the point where he could leave until recently:
“I had a conversation during season 4 with [executive producer] Scott Gimple about this … You know, we 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. We spoke about it and said, ‘There’s got to be a shape. We need a shape to work out if we get to season 5 then maybe we’ve got a couple more.’ There were all these ifs and buts and strategies. And I said, eight sounds like a good number.’ Eight seasons was certainly something. Last season was a shape that I had in my head and it was certainly something that Scott was possibly thinking about as well that was a completion of a certain chapter which could be called Rick’s falling.”
So why stay until season 9? Lincoln noted that last year, he realized that he wasn’t quite ready to go and leave some of his longtime friends behind — so he opted to stick around for one more year. He won’t be in all of season 9, but he’ll have at least a handful of episodes. After that, he may return as a director during season 10.
For a long time, we’ve felt like one of the biggest mistakes producers made was killing Carl, given that Lincoln’s exit felt so sudden and in retrospect, we wondered if they would have done things the same knowing that their star would be departed. However, upon reading Lincoln’s comments it feels like they’ve known all along that they were on borrowed time with Andrew. This is a part of their shape (to use Lincoln’s words) and they obviously prepared this story in a particular way. It just remains to be seen what the long-term ramifications are.
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