With Season 9 starting in October and huge developments in the show on the horizon, the cast and new showrunner of The Walking Dead came to Comic-Con's Hall H to address it all.
Right off the bat, Andrew Lincoln — who has starred as lead protagonist Rick Grimes since the very beginning — addressed the news that he will leave the series after this season.
"There seems to be an elephant in the room," said Lincoln, who confirmed his exit before adding, "I love this show, it means everything to me. I love the people who make this show. And I'm particularly fond of the people who watch the show — you people (addressing the audience). This has been the most extraordinary experience of my career largely because of you guys in this room and rooms across America and the rest of the world."
"As you see in the trailer, we're deeply, deeply proud of the work we've done this season," he continued, citing the leadership of new showrunner Angela Kang. "My relationship with Mr. Grimes is far from over, and a large part of me will always be a machete-wielding, Stetson-wearing sheriff's deputy from England."
He concluded, "This has always been an ensemble and will continue to be. No one is bigger than the story and the story this season is unbelievable."
As for what season 9 entails, executive producer Scott M. Gimple noted that, following in the footsteps of the comics, season 9 of The Walking Dead is "a whole new beginning and it's a whole new show in a way."
New showrunner Angela Kang revealed that the season will kick off with a time jump: "It's really cool to jump forward in the story and it's been a while since the war ended," she said, "(That) allows them to have different responses to a whole different set of challenges in the world."
Among the things that will immediately stand out: the world is starting to degrade and nature is reclaiming it even as the cast struggle to slowly put civilization back together. In other developments, Maggie finally has her baby after what has seemed like the longest pregnancy on television, although her resentment toward Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) over killing Glenn remains unresolved.
"This year, we see that Negan is in a bit of a predicament and having to face some stuff internally as well as outside that he's never had to face before," says Morgan, who is seen in the trailer in a cell (as per the comics).
New cast members include Dan Fogler as Luke Samantha Morton as Alpha, Nadia Hilker as Magna, John Finn as Earl and Brett Butler as Tammy Rose.
The panel ended with Norman Reedus asking the entire panel and audience to give Andrew Lincoln a standing ovation for his 10 years of service on the show -- to which everyone in the room responded enthusiastically.
The Walking Dead is set to return to AMC on Oct. 7
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