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SDCC: The Walking Dead cast and creators discuss Andrew Lincoln's departure and the show's future

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Jul 20, 2018, 11:01 PM EDT (Updated)

Season 8 of The Walking Dead saw the end of the war. Season 9 will see the departure of its lead character.

The cast and creators of the AMC phenomenon discussed this and more at their San Diego Comic-Con press conference today. Participating were cast members Andrew Lincoln (Rick), Danai Gurira (Michonne), Norman Reedus (Darryl), Lauren Cohen (Maggie), and Jeffery Dean Morgan (Negan). Joining them were executive producers Scott Gimple and Greg Nicotero, and showrunner Angela Kang.

It was no surprise that the start of the discussion dealt with Lincoln's exit during the season. While he was obviously sad to leave his surrogate family, he's very proud of the way he's leaving. "I was able to have intimate scenes with all the people at this table, and that was very important to me."

The focus then shifted to the future. It's been two years since Rick defeated Negan, and many things have changed, while others haven't. According to Cohen, "[The group] is still a family but we are in disagreement." Nicotero added, "Maggie felt betrayed when Rick spared Negan. After all he had done to her and the others, she feels slighted. Darryl comes out of the shadows and basically says I'm not okay with this either."

Gurira hinted that this issue will not go resolved for some time during the season. "There is so much tension because of Rick sparing Negan. It's about people who love each other and WANT to be on the same page but aren't," she said.

Speaking of the cause of all this tension, Negan himself, Morgan, addressed how his character has changed over the time jump. "We will definitely see a different side of Negan at the beginning of Season 9. [I believe] there's room for redemption, but not sure if there will be," said Morgan.

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From the trailer, it looks like Season 9 is going to be more intimate than previous years. Showrunner Kang said "yes and no" to this, though. "The scope of the show will still be huge. We have some amazing set pieces this year. However, there will be a focus on deep dives into the relationships between the core cast that we haven't seen in the last few years," she added.

The conference wrapped up with a touching tribute to Andrew from Danai. "Andrew has made us all better. Through his character. Through his drive. Through his leadership. He's helped us learn [as actors] how to carry on without him."

The Walking Dead Season 9 premieres October 7th on AMC.

Click here for SYFY WIRE's full coverage SDCC 2018, including up-to-the-minute news, exclusive interviews, and videos.

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