‘The Walking Dead’ Star Andrew Lincoln Had a Say in Rick Grimes’ Exit

Andrew Lincoln had a say in determining how his Rick Grimes exited The Walking Dead.

“You know, we start with the writers’ room and try to figure out the story, thinking about the themes, but of course we had so many great conversations with Andrew,” showrunner Angela Kang told ET.

“He’s been amazing this season, as he has been this entire journey on the show. I can say that I think that the send-off is incredibly emotional. It’s filled with twists and turns, it’s epic and so I’m really excited to share that with the fans even though we will miss Andrew and Rick. I hope that we’ve done service to that story.”

Lincoln previously revealed he had discussions with executive producer-slash-former showrunner Scott Gimple concerning a down-the-road exit strategy as far back as Season Four, initially intending to tap out in Season Eight. Lincoln chose to step away to spend more time with his family, making Season Nine his last.

“I had a conversation during season 4 with Scott Gimple about this. You know, we shared young families and there was a lot of synchronicity between the two of us that were two heads of a show that seemed to be getting bigger and bigger,” Lincoln told EW.

“We spoke about it and said, ‘There’s got to be a shape. We need a shape to work out if we get to season 5 then maybe we’ve got a couple more.’ There were all these ifs and buts and strategies. And I said, ‘eight sounds like a good number.’ Eight seasons was certainly something. Last season was a shape that I had in my head and it was certainly something that Scott was possibly thinking about as well that was a completion of a certain chapter which could be called Rick’s falling.”

Gimple quietly mapped out Rick’s departure, ultimately concocting the story for “What Comes After” with Matthew Negrete, who pens Lincoln’s sendoff episode.

“There were things that you build things into the story, maybe it’ll go this direction, maybe it'll go that direction,” Gimple divulged at New York Comic Con.

“Things started moving in that way and we followed the story threads that were laid out. We were able to fulfill it this season. There was a plan. There were little turns here and there but it generally stayed with the plan.”

Lincoln, when speaking to press during San Diego Comic-Con after confirming his exit publicly for the first time, said he preferred to leave without Rick having to die. Lincoln pointed to the trajectory of co-star Lennie James, whose Morgan left the flagship series and joined spinoff Fear the Walking Dead.

“Lennie James is a perfect example of leaving without dying and doing rather well on it, so there is that way,’” Lincoln teased.

“And then there is obviously the other way, which we’ve done quite a lot... Obviously I’m not going to tell you which way [Rick leaves]. I mean, I’d prefer the Lennie James of it all. But I think what we have in store this season is truly remarkable, and I’m very proud of the work that we’ve done.”

Kang has since confirmed Rick will be written out of the mothership series, but suggested the door is open for Lincoln to return — and possibly resurface elsewhere in the budding Walking Dead universe, which will soon expand with new movie and television projects.

A newly-released clip further hints at what The Walking Dead has in store for Rick Grimes, a direction that would be tied to a top-secret plot that has been quietly unfolding for years.

“The way he leaves the show is going to be interesting for the fans, and I think it’s going to propel the story in a way that it never would have been able to go before,” Negan star Jeffrey Dean Morgan told ET. “I think that the fans are going to dig it, but it sucks not having him.”

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Teased Daryl Dixon star Norman Reedus, “I thought it was really well-written. This show has a way of throwing you a curve ball at the last minute, I’m just going to say that.”

Lincoln’s last episode airs Sunday at 9/8c on AMC.