Andrew Lincoln leaving The Walking Dead

Rick Grimes himself, Andrew Lincoln, will reportedly exit The Walking Dead in the upcoming ninth season of the zombie apocalypse drama.

According to a report by Collider, Lincoln will be in only six episodes of the next season and then he will be leaving the show for good. Having been the lead of The Walking Dead since the pilot, Andrew Lincoln has always been considered an integral part of the show. His departure will certainly shake things up and the show will have to make some big adjustments to fill the void. And this is also happening as The Walking Dead‘s reins pass to a new showrunner, Angela Kang.

Some reports say that another cast regular, Norman Reedus, who plays Daryl Dixon, will step up as the male lead of the show. Reedus has also been around since the first season and has always been a fan favorite. But lately, he hasn’t been given much to do in the story so his fans will be delighted if his role is expanded. Not to mention, there is a possible $20 million payday waiting for him.

Andrew Lincoln will not be the only main cast member appearing in less episodes next season. After several difficult negotiations with AMC, Lauren Cohan, who plays Maggie Rhee, and who’s been around since season two, will also only appear in six episodes. It isn’t confirmed if she will be leaving the show for good, but with her starring in the ABC pilot Whiskey Cavalier, that might just be the case.

Some believe that Rick’s departure (and possibly death) might be a good enough sign for the long-running series to start wrapping up its meandering storylines. With the loss of Rick and Maggie, only Daryl and Carol will remain from the first season. There’s also the amazing Michonne, played by Danai Gurira (who wowed audiences as Okoye in Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War). How Rick’s leaving will affect her will be something indeed since the two characters have been in a relationship for the last few seasons.

Andrew Lincoln TWDA recent report by saw Norman Reedus share a heartbreaking photo of him and Andrew Lincoln on Instagram, from the set of the eight episode of season seven, where Rick and Daryl reunite after the latter was imprisoned.

Lincoln also told that he could see a potential endpoint for his character’s arc, especially after the death of his son, Carl, last season. Lincoln said:

“There’s part of me that really wants to complete something. How long that takes? I don’t know but certainly I really think the fans and my character deserve an end point as some time in the future.”

The Walking Dead season nine will premiere in the fall on AMC.