Did Andrew Lincoln Already Reveal the Real Reason He’s Leaving ‘The Walking Dead’?

The decision to kill off Carl Grimes on The Walking Dead may have led to the exit of leading man Andrew Lincoln, who will end his relationship with longtime survivor Rick Grimes in Season Nine.

Word of Lincoln's departure after almost nine seasons broke on Tuesday, with ComicBook.com exclusively reporting producers and distributors AMC intend to officially announce Lincoln’s exit ahead of his final episodes.

Lincoln’s Rick Grimes will reportedly be “phased out” of the series, mirroring the exit of co-star Lauren Cohan, whose Maggie Rhee will similarly receive a handful of appearances in this upcoming front half of Season Nine.

Speaking with ComicBook.com in April, Lincoln said he’d “be thrilled to hang around” for more Walking Dead, but pointed to the death of his onscreen son (played by Chandler Riggs) as a sort of natural ending point for Rick Grimes.

“I think that when we got the news that Carl was dying on the show — it certainly for me — it felt like very much a bookend of a much bigger journey that began in the hospital,” Lincoln said of Rick’s driving force since the series’ 2010 pilot.

“Searching for his wife and his son were the two engines that kept this man alive at the beginning of the show eight years,” Lincoln said. “To lose the second engine that fueled him, at this point, certainly did feel, to me personally, not just the end of a chapter but a book, really.”

Immediately following Carl’s death in December, The Hollywood Reporter asked Lincoln if he sees an end in sight for his time on The Walking Dead, to which Lincoln answered, “Yeah, I think so.”

“I really feel that the fans — and also for my own satisfaction — that there deserves to be an end point. There needs to be an end game and that is something that is definitely being talked about,” Lincoln said. “I can't get into all of that. But all of that will be answered.”

He then added his relationship with Rick Grimes is “far from over.”

Lincoln was spotted in Walking Dead Season Nine set photos that showed Rick with an overhauled look closer to that of his comic book counterpart, including shorter hair and a thick but neatly trimmed beard.

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AMC is reportedly in talks with longtime series star Norman Reedus, who plays Daryl Dixon, to take over as lead on The Walking Dead with a $20 million dollar payday.

The Walking Dead returns with its ninth season this fall on AMC.