‘The Walking Dead’ Showrunner on Andrew Lincoln’s “Incredibly Emotional” Final Episodes

AMC has now officially branded The Walking Dead Season Nine as “Rick Grimes’ final episodes,” and new showrunner Angela Kang is promising an “incredibly emotional journey” for Rick and star Andrew Lincoln.

“This is new territory for us; obviously there have been characters that we’ve said goodbye to over the years, but he’s the person who brought us into the show,” Kang told IGN.

“But we have such a strong ensemble and there’s such beautiful scenes between a lot of these core characters that we’ve been tracking for many years. Rick has such interesting and deep relationships with these characters and you really feel the way that he has touched these different people’s lives, so I think these episodes that he’s in... Andy is incredible in them, for one thing, and I think our directors that have come in have done some of their finest work, so I’m excited for people to see the journey.”

Word of Lincoln’s exit leaked in May; by July, Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman was the first to confirm Lincoln would be leaving before the actor personally announced his stepping away during the series’ Hall H panel at San Diego Comic-Con. A summer’s worth of knowing The Walking Dead is losing its leading man has since resulted in endless speculation and discussion, but Kang hopes audiences tune in for the show’s biggest sendoff yet.

“Obviously there’s a lot of expectations and we really hope that we don’t let people down; we hope that people come along for the ride, but I do think it’s an incredibly emotional journey and I think the performances and the work that people have done are pretty amazing,” she said.

Kang, who has been with the series since Season Two in 2011, previously admitted on Talking Dead she “just [didn’t] want to mess it up” and that she wanted to “do service to this character.”

“The writers, and everybody, the crew, the actors, everybody’s just putting their all into it because we love him so much and we respect him so much, and we want to do service to that journey,” she said. “I feel a great responsibility to the fans to try to write him out in a way that’s worthy of his character, so I hope that we accomplished that.”

In his comments at Comic-Con, Lincoln said Kang is “astonishing” and later told ComicBook.com that his relationship with the role “is far from over.”

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“I’m not gonna say anything more than that,” Lincoln teased, “but I will say, ‘Watch this season.’”

Rick Grimes’ final episodes begin when The Walking Dead returns to AMC Sunday, October 7.