“There’s no replacing him, there’s no just getting over it. It is something that, you know, of course our characters are dealing with as we deal with it,” the Michonne actress told EW at San Diego Comic-Con this past weekend.
“So it’s kind of — we’re in very clear emotional synchronicity with our characters right now, because the loss is felt by them and by us. But, you know, the beauty is that we’re family, and he created the TWD family with a few other folks, and so we get to still have this family and that’s a beautiful thing.”
Whether or not Rick is still alive by season’s end despite Lincoln’s departure, the loss of Lincoln — and subsequently Rick — will reverberate throughout the season.
Lincoln finally addressed his looming exit at The Walking Dead’s Hall H Comic-Con panel Friday, announcing to the packed hall season 9 will be his “last season playing the part of Rick Grimes.”
The actor did tease Rick’s survival when asked during the panel if there was a way for someone to leave The Walking Dead without being killed off, saying, “Well, I think [Morgan actor] Lennie James is a good example of leaving without dying. There’s also the other way, but I won’t tell you which one.”
Characters exiting The Walking Dead often ends in death — as Morgan put it, you go out either “torn apart by teeth or bullets” — but Rick simultaneously not being around but also being alive isn’t unprecedented: Heath’s (Corey Hawkins) fate has been left famously open-ended since his disappearance in season 7, and reformed Savior Dwight (Austin Amelio) was banished by Daryl (Norman Reedus) in the season 8 finale.
ComicBook.com speculated previously the series could keep Rick alive and write Lincoln off by having Daryl form a traveling welcome-party in search of other survivors in surrounding territories like Ohio and Pennsylvania — with Rick, as leader of Alexandria, opting to stay behind — and we mulled over the idea of Rick on his own unseen journey as a means of explaining Rick’s absence without ruling out a potential future return to the series, even if only in a limited role.
Also at the forefront of teases this season is the mysterious recurring helicopter — located conspicuously near Rick in the first season 9 key art, and glimpsed again in the season 9 trailer — which has unknown ties to Anne (Pollyanna McIntosh), formerly Jadis, who has a yet undefined relationship with the chopper.
Whatever secrets season 9 holds, a Rick Grimes death might not be among them.
“I’ll tell you what, at the end of the panel, it sort of hit me a little bit,” Lincoln said at Comic-Con. “I got kind of choked up, and it's been nine years of coming here. I love this place and I love seeing the fans, and you've been such a vital part of this experience. But as I said, my relationship with Mr. Grimes is far from over.”
The actor and father-of-two did say he was “going to take a break for a while” now that he’s fulfilled his Walking Dead leading man duties, admitting he “really [doesn't] know” what role he might want to tackle next.
“There are a couple things I’m thinking about doing,” Lincoln said, “but I’m so in love with Rick Grimes and this show that I don’t know if I can put him down yet.”
The Walking Dead returns with its season 9 premiere Sunday, October 7 on AMC.