‘The Walking Dead’s Chandler Riggs on Whether or Not Carl’s Death Played a Part in Andrew Lincoln’s Exit

Former Carl Grimes star Chandler Riggs admits he’s “not sure” if his character’s death midway through Season Eight played a part in Rick Grimes star Andrew Lincoln’s decision to leave The Walking Dead.

“I mean, I know he loved being on the show and loved being a part of it, but I think the main reason was his family. He’s a very family [oriented] man,” Riggs said at San Jose Fan Fest.

Riggs added he and his TV dad talked about Lincoln exiting the show “a while before he had finally decided to leave.”

“I think the really serious conversation we had about it was when right after he found out, we were talking and he was like, ‘Man, I want to spend time with my family,’” Riggs said.

“And honestly, when I found out, I was super excited for him, because that meant he got to spend that much more time with his family and raise his kids, and I’m super proud of him for drawing a line and being like, ‘I have to be with my family.’ It’s a super hard move to make for him, I’m sure. And of course, he’s not done as Rick Grimes, there’s gonna be more stories for him.”

Lincoln, who is off the mothership series for good but will live on in a trilogy of television movies, previously detailed his decision to end his tenure on the show when speaking to Access at the Season Nine red carpet premiere.

“I mean, there’s only so many sports days you can miss and really call yourself a father, so I think it was time for me to get back for some important days and just be around and have some continuity back home,” Lincoln said.

His new film roles indicate abbreviated shoots and less time-consuming commitments that take Lincoln away from his family, who live overseas. The star has since returned to The Walking Dead set to prep for his first directorial effort on the zombie drama.

Riggs previously explained Lincoln’s decision to leave during Walker Stalker Con Orlando in August.

“He had to leave his family for seven months at a time. Having to leave and go to work. He would come over to the states and film for that long, every single year for nine years straight,” Riggs said. “It’s just insane.”

Tom Payne — whose Jesus has since been killed off in The Walking Dead mid-season Nine finale — said previously he believes Carl’s death was a major factor in Lincoln opting to exit.

“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 said, adding an eight-month shoot away from family is “tough on anyone.”

Lincoln initially intended to leave the series in Season Eight after executive producer and then-showrunner Scott Gimple agreed there “needed to be a shape” to the future, discussions Lincoln and Gimple were engaged in as far back as Season Four.

Gimple noted at New York Comic Con a plan — which would later be revealed to send a gravely injured Rick off in a helicopter with rescuer Anne (Pollyanna McIntosh) — was built in as response to Lincoln’s expected departure, forging an exit plan that slowly played out and unfolded across seasons.

“There were things that you build things into the story, maybe it’ll go this direction, maybe it’ll go that direction,” Gimple said.

“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.”

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Riggs also said at the convention it would have been “really interesting” to explore Carl without Rick following a six-year time skip that aged up younger half-sister Judith (Cailey Fleming) and brought with it RJ (Antony Azor), son of Rick and Michonne (Danai Gurira).

The Walking Dead returns with its back half of Season Nine Sunday, February 10 on AMC.