‘The Walking Dead’ Star Believes Carl’s Death Played a Part in Andrew Lincoln Exit

Jesus actor Tom Payne believes the decision to kill Chandler RiggsCarl Grimes played a part in Rick Grimes actor Andrew Lincoln’s decision to leave The Walking Dead.

“I think when Carl died last year and Chandler left, I think that was a moment for him of: ‘OK, where does this leave Rick? And how does he move forward?’ I think that was a pause for thought,” Payne told Digital Spy.

Since first publicly confirming his oft-reported exit at San Diego Comic-Con in July, Lincoln has been vocal about stepping down from the series because it takes him away from his young family, who live overseas, for much of the year.

“As far as Andy goes, I’m completely with him on the fact that he needs to spend some more time with his family. He had just had a baby when the show got picked up,” Payne added.

“He’s in Atlanta for eight months out of the year — for eight years, now. So that’s tough on anyone, and I completely agree with decision to concentrate on his family for now. And I would do the same.”

Payne credited Lincoln for his dedicated eight-year tenure in the leading role, which the actor expressed would take a toll on anyone.

“I think being part of one of the most successful shows – well, leading one of the most successful shows in the history of television, is enough for anyone. If he retired tomorrow, I wouldn’t bemoan him for it,” he said.

“If you look at all of the work that Andy’s done — and not just Andy, a lot of the cast. But Andy has been in floods of tears, with snot hanging out of his nose, and he’s exhausted and covered in blood. Psychologically and physically, that’s got to take its toll on you.”

In April, before word broke of Lincoln’s exit, Lincoln told ComicBook.com he saw the death of Carl as a 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 motivation 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. 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.”

Former five-year showrunner Scott Gimple, since promoted to Chief Content Officer for the Walking Dead brand, made the decision to kill Carl to explain why Rick — who has long vowed to kill arch-enemy Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) — made the unilateral decision to spare the villain in the Season Eight finale, ending the war against the Saviors.

Rick’s decision to jail Negan then kept with the trajectory of Rick Grimes’ character arc in Robert Kirkman’s ongoing comic book series, where Carl is still alive as a prominent character who is poised to one day succeed his father as leader.

“In the comics, Scott was trying to figure out why there was a hole between Rick slitting Negan’s throat at the end of the All Out War arc and then there’s the time jump and Negan is alive and in prison and Rick didn’t kill Negan,” Riggs told THR in December.

Riggs said Gimple was “trying to figure out how to bridge the gap” in reconciling Rick’s bloodlust for Negan with his comic book change of heart, ultimately deciding to mold Carl into “this really humanitarian figure” who inspired Rick to change and instead work towards realizing a hopeful and more peaceful future — for everyone.

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“I have two young children, and I live in a different country, and they become less portable as they get older,” Lincoln said this summer of his decision to leave. “It was that simple. It was time for me to come home.”

Lincoln’s final episodes begin Sunday, October 7 when The Walking Dead returns to AMC with its extended Season Nine premiere.