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Andrew Lincoln to leave The Walking Dead in season 9 Confirmed Norman Reedus To Take Lead

Prepare for The Walking Dead‘s biggest loss yet.

Andrew Lincoln, the hit drama’s leading man since the start, is set to exit the series in the upcoming ninth season, EW has confirmed from a source. AMC declined to comment.

Collider, which first reported the news, suggests that Lincoln’s final run will last only six episodes.

“I can’t wait to see this next episode,” Lincoln told EW after the season 8 finale. “It’s really interesting. It’s very different in a good way. In an exciting way. It’s more reminiscent of the pilot than any other season that we’ve embarked on, which makes me very happy. It’s a good time for it. It’s a really exciting time for it. I feel like season 1. It’s a big year, and I’m excited for it.

While The Walking Dead is no stranger to losing main cast members, the departure of Lincoln, who has starred as Rick Grimes for all eight seasons, marks the show’s toughest challenge. His impending loss only adds to the transition that the show is currently undergoing. In addition to the exit of fellow TWD original Chandler Riggs and, possibly, Lauren Cohan, Angela Kang is taking over the reigns from longtime showrunner Scott M. Gimple.

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We’re hearing that, by the end of Season 9 of AMC’s hit drama series The Walking Dead, Rick Grimes himself will be walking away. That’s right TWD enthusiasts, Andrew Lincoln will be growling his way through the post-apocalyptic setting for just one more season before calling it quits. And while we won’t be spoiling just how the series’ founding character makes his exit, we do know that fans can only expect to see Lincoln in half-a-dozen episodes of the upcoming season.

Any time a major character from the show shuffles off this mortal coil (or heads to a spin-off series), it’s a big deal, but for the characters who have been there from the beginning like Rick Grimes & Co., their loss is catastrophic. We saw that effect when Chandler Riggs left the show just last season and we’ll likely see an even bigger fan fallout when Lincoln leaves in Season 9. To fill the void in the show’s leading man status, we’re also hearing that AMC has offered substantial compensation to long-running series star Norman Reedus to not only stay on board, but to take over the show’s leading role.

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Image via AMC

Off-screen drama has been fairly common for The Walking Dead this off-season with star Lauren Cohan, who’s not quite a TWD original but close, making waves across social media by holding out for a better contract. Her case was strengthened by the Season 8 finale, which put her character Maggie in a position of power that ironically mirrored Cohan’s own bargaining position at the negotiating table. Cohan is confirmed to be back for Season 9 of The Walking Dead, though it’ll only be for six episodes as well; her ABC pilot Whiskey Cavalier has been ordered to series, keeping her plenty busy. It’s possible that AMC will cut ties with both Lincoln and Cohan this season … or vice versa. Lincoln has been relatively locked down in the eight-plus years of starring on The Walking Dead, and while it’s a lucrative job, it limits the versatile star from taking on other creative challenges. Cohan, too, has been a sought-after talent during the recent TV pilot season and has increasingly high-profile films on deck at this stage in her career.

Don’t worry though, fans; Daryl Dixon is here to stay for the foreseeable future, so there’s no need to riot just yet.

The Walking Dead returns to AMC in October

 

EW

Collider

 

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