‘The Walking Dead’ Movies Will Complete Rick Grimes’ Story, Says Andrew Lincoln

The Walking Dead star Andrew Lincoln, who will lead a trilogy of television movies as Rick Grimes after exiting the mothership series in Season Nine, says the movies will continue and then “complete” Rick’s story.

Lincoln and Walking Dead chief content officer Scott Gimple, then-showrunner on the flagship series, mapped out an exit strategy as far back as Season Four that originally would have come to fruition in Season Eight, Lincoln told THR:

“That coincided with my personal reasons — which, on my end, are that kids become less portable as they get older. And yet there was a part of me that thought, ‘I don’t think I'm done with the guy,’” Lincoln said.

“I love this character; I love the world that we inhabit. So why don’t we try to potentially continue this story in a different way and maybe complete his story so the mothership can continue?”

The father-of-two explained there were “many iterations” of Rick’s departure from the main series, some of which would have ended with Rick’s death. The decision to instead spare Rick and spring him into his own movie franchise came “rather late” during Season Eight, and was until then a “pipe dream.”

“I said, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to do this.’ It’s never been done by a cable TV channel and I didn’t think it would come to much,” Lincoln admitted.

“Quite astonishingly, at the end of last year, they said, ‘Let’s go for it.’ This organically grew out from last year. There were versions [of the episode] that Rick wasn’t going to make it. But thankfully it went this way!”

Rick’s endgame continuing past Season Eight and subsequently Season Nine came in part from “the good people at AMC, who just said no and they thought it would be an interesting and exciting proposition to expand rather than contract the show,” Lincoln added.

“Realistically, this decision was all about time. For me to want to do a limited number of episodes [of The Walking Dead] a year wouldn't feel like I was doing my job properly because playing this part has been so all-encompassing. I think I would get frustrated with that. So the idea of being able to contain the story and still work just as hard and tell a different story in maybe a more expansive narrative way seemed very exciting to me.”

Asked if he would have walked away from the franchise if there wasn’t an offshoot for Rick, Lincoln said, “Yes, I think I would,” before reiterating he left solely because of familial responsibilities.

“But there is a certain sense that because I have known about the ongoing story of Rick Grimes, it has tempered that feeling of the curtain closing,” Lincoln said.

“It was complicated going to [San Diego] Comic-Con and telling 10,000 people that this will be my last season because I didn’t want it to come out and seem disingenuous when people realized that Rick’s not going [anywhere]. I didn’t want it to feel like an obituary tour. I wanted people to experience it in real time, say, ‘What the hell?!’ And then realize there’s a helicopter involved.”

That plan — ultimately culminating in an injured Rick being scooped up and whisked away in a helicopter by Anne (Pollyanna McIntosh), giving way to a six-year time jump that left his closest allies believing him dead — quietly unfolded for years and was hinted at as far back as late 2017.

McIntosh, expected to join Lincoln in the movies, has since said she believes Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Daryl (Norman Reedus) would be “quite pissed off” with Anne should they learn Rick survived his apparent death at the bridge where he made his last stand when saving his friends from a relentless horde of walkers.

While Lincoln will not be returning to the television series, a happy reunion in the movie-side of the franchise is possible: Reedus and Carol star Melissa McBride have since inked three-year franchise deals allowing for potential appearances outside the main series, while Gurira reportedly entered into negotiations for a similar contract extension.

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Gimple, who will pen the script for the first Rick Grimes movie, has since said Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman will be heavily involved with the Lincoln-led movie franchise. AMC is looking to begin production on that project sometime this year.

The Walking Dead Season Nine returns with new episodes Sunday, February 10 on AMC.