Following news on comicbook.com that season nine of The Walking Dead would be Andrew Lincoln’s final season as Rick Grimes, fans of the series have pondered which character would be assuming the role of leader of the show’s ragtag group of survivors. In an interview with Variety, showrunner Angela Kang told reporters that the show’s post-Rick power structure would be based on a group dynamic. Kang elaborated, saying that no one character would assume all of Rick’s responsibilities. Instead, the group will share roles previously filled by Rick. Being on an ensemble cast, this is an easy restructuring for the series. Nevertheless, several actors will be more prominent following Lincoln’s exit, including Norman Reedus, who plays Daryl, Danai Gurira, who plays Michonne, and Melissa McBride, who portrays Carol.
Kang added that Reedus, Gurira, and McBride have all unofficially adopted new roles as the show’s lead cast members. The three actors do this by establishing an air of professionalism and respect when filming scenes of the show. Kang credits Lincoln with helping to establish this vibe of professional and respect, qualities which will be part of his enduring legacy on the series. Gurira also praised Lincoln’s leadership on the series, calling him “the best leading man on television.” At San Diego Comic Con, Reedus and Negan actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan also hailed Lincoln’s accomplishments, referring to him as the “quarterback” of the cast.
While it has yet to be revealed how and if Rick will die in the upcoming season, Robert Kirkman, creator of The Walking Dead comic book, says that Lincoln’s exit will not alter his plans for the comic book version of the character. Speaking earlier this week at New York Comic Con, Kirkman said that he already knows how Rick will die in the comic series, and that while the timing of it might change, Lincoln’s exit will have no bearing on the comic. Kirkman also explained that while he is a consultant on the television series, Kang and Scott Gimple, who is chief content officer for both The Walking Dead and its sister show, Fear the Walking Dead, make all decisions in terms of storylines.
The Walking Dead returns for its ninth season on AMC on October 7. Lincoln’s exit is reported to be within the season’s first six episodes.