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Andrew Lincoln hints at what’s next for Rick Grimes in The Walking Dead movie trilogy

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Nov 5, 2018, 11:29 AM EST

He’s finally gone from the TV show, but after nine years, Rick Grimes’ story in The Walking Dead universe is really only getting started. Instead of dying in Sunday’s hugely anticipated sendoff episode, Rick flash-forwards to a different time and place, setting up a new TWD movie trilogy poised to answer some of the main series’ biggest lingering mysteries.

Now that the cat’s out of the bag, Grimes’ Andrew Lincoln and the show’s creative team are at last free to talk about what comes next for Rick. And while they aren’t getting specific, they’re already giving fans a pretty good idea of where Lincoln’s three solo movies will fit in the expanding TWD universe.

Nothing’s yet written in stone for the first film, Lincoln told The New York Times. But, he said, the new movies will finally take Rick, and TWD fans along with him, to the heart of the mysteries that have long nagged at the show’s survivors.

“I want to know why we keep seeing helicopters flying around,” said Lincoln. “What’s going on? What have the grown-ups been doing while we’ve been scrambling around in the dirt?… I’m not going to say any more than that. I don’t want to give away — well, I don’t know the story actually, so I can’t give anything away.”

Lincoln also said he hopes to evolve Rick’s reputation as one of TV’s most stubbornly moral characters stuck in a bad situation, modeling the movie version of Rick on Clint Eastwood’s beleaguered cowboy, Will Munny, in Unforgiven.

“There’s something about Eastwood, who he is as a gunslinger, as an iconic kind of American hero, rolling around in pig swill at the beginning of the movie,” Lincoln said. "You know what he’s capable of, and I thought the idea of a character that the audience knows and has lived with — and who has oscillated between psycho and father for nine years — to start in a completely different place, was a really interesting, crazy place to begin.”

Following Netflix’s precedent of fitting feature-length original movies onto the small screen, Rick’s movie arc will boast production values higher than that of the main series, said Scott Gimple, TWD’s chief content officer, who’s also writing the movie’s script.

“We are telling Rick’s story in another medium, and it’s going to be these AMC Studios original films," Gimple told Entertainment Weekly. “We’re going to tell the story of what happens after that helicopter flight, and these are going to be big, epic entertainments. Each are quality films. That’s what’s been happening in the industry. We’ve seen Netflix make these, basically, studio films for people to watch in their homes, and we’re going to be doing the same sort of thing here.”

Adding that’s he’s “extremely hard at work on the first” movie, Gimple also revealed that the new films will explain the role that Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh), the enigmatic leader of the Scavengers, has been playing behind the scenes. “She is on that helicopter, so that would be a yes,” he said, when asked whether Jadis will make the jump from Rick’s final TWD episode over to the movie trilogy.

One thing’s for sure: What fans have been viewing as a final chapter for the show is actually shaping up to be a whole new beginning, not only for Rick, but for The Walking Dead as a whole. Shooting on the first film begins next year.