Andrew Lincoln Wishes His ‘Walking Dead’ Exit Wasn’t Spoiled

The Walking Dead leading man Andrew Lincoln regrets his exit from the series wasn’t kept a surprise.

“There is a certain sense of relief this morning,” Lincoln told EW at San Diego Comic-Con Saturday. “But I still regret that the story broke, because I believe in story and I think it would have been... it’s gonna be a great season but it would have been greater if it was not spoiled to a degree.”

TWD Rick
(Photo: AMC)

The departure of Lincoln and subsequently Rick Grimes has dominated the narrative of The Walking Dead season 9 after it was learned in June the longtime series star would be leaving after eight-and-a-half seasons.

Robert Kirkman, creator and executive producer of The Walking Dead, confirmed Lincoln’s exit at the start of Comic-Con in an interview with IMDb.

Lincoln himself addressed the reports for the first time publicly during The Walking Dead’s Hall H Comic-Con panel Friday.

“Do I confirm or do I deny it? Fortunately, that problem was taken away from me by this man,” Lincoln said, motioning towards Kirkman. “I’m very sorry, Andrew,” Kirkman said.

“No, I love you. This will be my last season playing the part of Rick Grimes,” Lincoln said, eliciting cries of “no” from the audience.

“Now hear me out, please, please. I love this show. It means everything to me. I love the people who make this show — I promised not to cry, I’ve done enough crying on screen — I’m particularly fond of the people who watch the show. You people. This has been the most extraordinary, amazing, and beautiful experience of my career.”

Lincoln, hoping to avoid making “an Oscar acceptance speech or an obituary,” said the crew assembled are “deeply, deeply proud of the work that we’ve done this season” and called new season 9 showrunner Angela Kang “astonishing.”

He admitted later at a press conference his looming departure “was something that I started to think about as my children got older and less portable.”

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Lincoln’s close-knit co-stars Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Norman Reedus — Lincoln’s real-life “BFF” — paid tribute over the weekend to to the Rick Grimes actor and series “quarterback” ahead of his exit.

“The show is gonna miss him, we’re gonna miss him. He’s our buddy,” Morgan said. “And it’s gonna be a different vibe, and there’s no replacing him. So it’s a tough one for everybody, and we love him.”