The Walking Dead chief content officer Scott Gimple says the exits of Andrew Lincoln and Danai Gurira were “never meant to be promotional.” When The Hollywood Reporter raised the point character departures have dominated the conversation in recent years — Lincoln’s Rick Grimes and Lauren Cohan’s Maggie for Season 9, Gurira’s Michonne for Season 10 — Gimple noted those conversations don’t impact how The Walking Dead tells its stories, with episodes often long in the process or complete by the time audiences learn of departures. But fan fervor raised by those headline-making exits, either skewing positive or negative, is a sign audiences are still deeply invested in TWD, Gimple says.
“Well, I don’t think the conversation has necessarily impacted the storytelling, partially because we’re working so far ahead of the conversation. And also, you can’t monitor that stuff while you’re trying to tell a story,” Gimple told THR’s “TV’s Top 5” podcast. “But, just on the flip side of it, just being such a big part of the conversation, obviously this stuff was never meant to be promotional.”
Word of Lincoln’s planned departure leaked over the summer of 2018, forcing the star to officially announce his exit at San Diego Comic-Con in July of that year. News of Gurira’s looming departure was similarly first reported in the press, also made official when Gurira personally confirmed her exit months later at Comic-Con this past summer.
Lincoln later admitted his regret over the story breaking, saying the effect of his final season “would have been greater if it was not spoiled to a degree.”
Once word broke and promotion ramped up in September of that year, network AMC advertised the front half of Season 9 as “Rick Grimes’ final episodes.” (Months later, it would be learned Lincoln will return in the franchise’s first movie trilogy, overseen by Gimple.)
“We’re just thrilled that people are still talking about it so much. There’s 600 million television shows,” Gimple told THR. “The fact that people are so invested in our characters and our actors — that was big news about Danai. We’re very grateful. Danai was very grateful. The reaction to it touched her — I hate speaking for her, though. It’s a remarkable thing to be a part of people’s lives, and for them to still have us be such a big part of their life, so deep into this story. We’re just thrilled that there is a conversation.”
Gimple has hinted Gurira could similarly be spun off into the movie franchise when she exits the mothership series sometime in Season 10. A release date for the first movie, to be theatrically distributed by Universal Pictures, has not been revealed.