Andrew Lincoln is set to leave AMC’s long-running zombie drama series The Walking Dead in season 9, which gets underway in October, but he’s been planning his exit since season 4, and he’s already stayed on longer than he initially wanted to.
In a new interview with EW, Lincoln revealed that the saga of Rick Grimes was supposed to play out differently.
“I had a conversation during season 4 with [executive producer] Scott Gimple about this,” he said. “You know, we shared young families and there was a lot of synchronicity between the two of us that were two heads of a show that seemed to be getting bigger and bigger. We spoke about it and said, ‘There’s got to be a shape. We need a shape to work out if we get to season 5 then maybe we’ve got a couple more.”
Season 8 is when Lincoln would have stepped off the show, if all had gone to plan. “There were all these ifs and buts and strategies. And I said, eight sounds like a good number.’ Eight seasons was certainly something. Last season was a shape that I had in my head and it was certainly something that Scott was possibly thinking about as well that was a completion of a certain chapter which could be called Rick’s falling.”
But when season 8 came around, the actor had a change of heart.
“Season 8 came and it got more complicated. I realized that rather than have the funeral, I had to prepare for the funeral and I had to make sure everybody was comfortable with the funeral arrangements. And I don’t think I was ready for the funeral! You know what I mean? I was like, I don’t think I’m ready to go yet!”
Lincoln, who plans to return to the series next year to direct, added that despite wanting to make life easier for his actual family by not spending as much time in America toiling away as the beleaguered Grimes, he wasn’t quite prepared to leave his Walking Dead family in season 8.
“It was at Comic-Con that year that I made the decision that I couldn’t leave that year. I said to my wife, ‘I feel overwhelmed. I don’t think I’m ready. I can’t do it. I’ve got Norman, I’ve got Danai, I’ve got Jeffrey, I’ve got Melissa McBride, I’ve got Greg Nicotero — all these beautiful friends of mine and I don’t know if I can do it yet. I don’t know if it’s time.’ So that happened.”