As we welcome the ninth season of The Walking Dead, we also say goodbye to the man who has done his best to keep the people close to him alive. Farewell, Rick Grimes. Farewell, Andrew Lincoln.
The jam-packed Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden was on their feet as the cast and creators took the stage during New York Comic Con. The first half of the panel was a celebration of Rick and Andrew. The rest of the group shared their fondest memories of Andrew. "On our first day meeting on set, he lied to me about not liking football (soccer) because I was wearing a jersey of a team he hated," recalled executive producer Gale Ann Hurd. "I was afraid of you! What can I say," responded Lincoln.
Norman Reedus (Darryl) remembered a time during their infamous prank war where Andrew had someone tee-pee Norman's car while they were on vacation. "I still say it doesn't count," Reedus laughed. "You have to BE there for it to be your prank."
On the more sentimental side, Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Negan) said of Andrew: "Working with him is one of the greatest pleasures of my life. There's not a better partner."
As they said goodbye to the past, they also looked to the future and what's to come during Season 9. Showrunner Angela Kang revealed that Jon Bernthal (Shane), Scott Wilson (Hershel), and Sonequa Martin-Green (Sasha) would all be returning in some capacity. That received a warm response from the NYCC crowd.
The discussion moved on to how the cast feel about their characters this season. Danai Gurira (Michonne) is happy because "there are more words in Michonne's mouth [than in any other season]." Since they are done running and fighting, there is more time for communication.
Reedus said that Season 9 "reminds me of what I love about the show in the beginning. There have been deviations over the years, but this season feels a lot like the beginning as far as tone."
Just because they're finished running doesn't mean they are in the clear just yet. This season will see the debut of the Whisperers from the comic book. If you felt that Negan was sadistic, please prepare yourself. Executive producer and Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman said that Greg Nictero's designs of the Whisperers were "absolutely breathtaking." Since this is Nicotero we are talking about, breathtaking might mean something different.
Kirkman also revealed in a little tangent that Skybound Entertainment has made an agreement with TellTale Games. They will be helping to complete Season 4 of the Walking Dead game. "There was no way I was going to lose Rick AND Clementine in the same year," said Kirkman.
The panel closed out with Andrew thanking the fans for being with him every step of the way: "I love everyone on this stage, and I love all of you. It's missing these interactions that will hurt the most."
The reaction from the crowd assured Andrew that he would be loved and missed just as much in return.
Season 9 of The Walking Dead premieres Sunday, Oct. 7, on AMC.
Click here for SYFY WIRE’s full coverage of NYCC 2018, including up-to-the-minute news, exclusive interviews, and videos.