Though it's confirmed that Rick Grimes will definitely be leaving The Walking Dead this upcoming season, Andrew Lincoln has had his eye on the exit sign for quite some time.
After creator Robert Kirkman had confirmed Lincoln was leaving the show last week, Lincoln addressed the crowd at San Diego Comic-Con last Friday with a heartfelt goodbye to the show's fans. Season 9 will be the end of Rick's story.
Though Lincoln wishes the news of him leaving hadn't been spoiled, the actor has been thinking about Rick's departure for some time. In an interview with Digital Spy, Lincoln said he even had conversations with then-showrunner Scott Gimple about how to do it back when the gang was still living in the prison.
"It was a lot to do with a conversation that Scott and I had a few years ago, maybe in Season 4, about a shape, and finding some way to complete something that was never going to be completed," he said, adding that the idea was set aside in lieu of not "disturbing the mothership" by writing Rick out of the show prematurely.
Now, it seems, the mothership will no longer be disturbed by Rick's departure, and new showrunner Angela Kang is ready to handle it. "There was a sense that the story has been a man waking up and you experience this world through his eyes," said Lincoln. "Now what's exciting, I think, is the fact that the narrative is being freed up. It's already being freed up from the beginning of this season."
Lincoln has played Rick since the show's pilot episode. It's still not known exactly how Rick will be leaving the world of The Walking Dead, but given the average lifespan of its characters, it's somewhat unlikely he'll be riding off into the sunset.
If you're having trouble processing the news, you're not alone. Danai Gurira, who plays the katana-wielding Michonne, won't be getting over it anytime soon, either.
The Walking Dead Season 9 premieres Oct. 7 on AMC.