Norman Reedus Isn’t Taking Over ‘The Walking Dead’ From Andrew Lincoln

Daryl Dixon star Norman Reedus shut down rumors he’s taking over The Walking Dead after leading man and Rick Grimes actor Andrew Lincoln makes his exit in season 9.

Asked by TV Line about taking the reigns as the new star in the wake of Lincoln’s departure, Reedus said, “I mean, that’s not happening.”

“That’s an internet story that’s not true that somebody made up and they ran with it — some of those people can put something on social media and it turns into media outlet stories, which blows me away, but that’s not a true story,” Reedus said. “Rick is the quarterback of this football team, he’s always been, he always will be.”

Reedus echoed comments made by long-serving series writer-producer and new season 9 showrunner Angela Kang, explaining the refreshed narrative moving forward will be driven by The Walking Dead’s veteran women — namely Michonne (Danai Gurira), Carol (Melissa McBride), and Maggie (Lauren Cohan).

“The story will evolve in ways where characters will rise and fall with what they have to do and how that works. It’s a very female-driven season, which is great. We’ve had a couple seasons of some chest-bumping going on, and girls don’t chest bump,” Reedus said. “This is a different vibe. It has the sensitivity and the grace but the ferociousness of a brand new show.”

The Walking Dead has long been an ensemble with Lincoln’s former sheriff’s deputy at its center, but with Carl (Chandler Riggs) gone and Rick soon to follow, the show will widen its scope and embrace its expansive cast and dole out Lincoln’s leading man duties to an array of characters.

“No one’s going to take over Rick’s place, that’s not happening,” Reedus said.

“There are certain people that have been there for a while that will keep doing their roles, and some of those are leadership type roles, like Michonne is a person you would go to, Carol is a person you would go to, Daryl perhaps would be a person that you’d go to, or Ezekiel. There’s lots of us.”

“Negan,” chimed in Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who plays the currently incarcerated bat-swinging bad guy.

“Not Negan. Anybody but Negan,” Reedus said. “But no one will be replaced, that’s not how the show rolls, really.”

“It’s an ensemble show,” Morgan added. “It’s just time for everybody to kick it up a gear.”

After it was learned in May Lincoln would be stepping away from the series sometime before the end of season 9, it was widely circulated Rick would be “phased out” and a more central role would be given to right hand man Daryl.

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Lincoln officially confirmed his looming departure for the first time during The Walking Dead’s Hall H San Diego Comic-Con panel Friday. Reedus is expected to be first billed on the series following Lincoln’s final episode.

The Walking Dead returns with its season 9 premiere Sunday, October 7.