The Walking Dead delivered on its "shocking" midseason finale promise on Sunday night, sending shockwaves through fans but also through Rick Grimes actor Andrew Lincoln.
Spoilers for The Walking Dead Episode 8x08, How It's Gotta Be, follow.
To conclude Sunday's midseason finale, The Walking Dead took a bite out of a character fans thought might never be claimed by the apocalypse. Chandler Riggs' Carl Grimes revealed a bite, marking the character for a certain death when the show returns in 2018. For Andrew Lincoln, learning the news of Carl's death was unlike anything he has experienced in his more than seven years on the AMC series, and a moment which will change the show forever.
"This was the hardest... Losing Steven was... the thought of the journey without Steven in the cast was unbearable but this is... I didn't see it coming," Lincoln said in an exclusive interview with ComicBook.com.
Based on The Walking Dead showrunner Scott Gimple's approach to telling Lincoln, the actor initially thought it was his time to go. "I had no idea," Lincoln said. "Scott called me up and said, 'You're gonna hate this one. I want to just forewarn you.' Even then, I was waiting to say, 'This is a really cool way of telling me that I'm off the show, you know that?' That's what I thought he was about to say. He said, 'It's the kid.' I couldn't even say, 'No.' I was silent for a minute. He said, twice, 'Are you still there?' I just didn't see it coming."
Of course, the death of Carl marks a shift in The Walking Dead's eighth season. Until now, the war with Negan appeared to be moving in favor of Rick Grimes and Alexandria with the most noteworthy casualties being Eric and Shiva. "This is bigger than any other death that we've ever had and we realize that as it plays out in the back eight," Lincoln said. "The back eight is completely different from the front eight. This episode happens and everything changes. We spin off into a completely different new world."
Rick has experienced a tremendous amount of loss throughout The Walking Dead's seven and a half seasons. Losing Carl, however, is unlike anything Rick has experienced and will change him forever as he pushes on. "He has his extended family," Lincoln said. "He's not Judith's father but he's her dad. And, of course, Michonne. They're in love. But this is... There are times in the back eight that I felt that the show was very courageous in that we didn't know what we're doing. Season 1 through 4, we're still investigating and work out what the show is. Still, I think we're trying to do that, but it felt like a bit like those seasons in this back eight."
"He's lost the things that he's fighting this war for," Lincoln adds. "That has a huge effect on him and it changes him irrevocably."
Of course, Lincoln not only loses Riggs as a co-star and Carl as a character, but also bid farewell to Morgan Jones actor Lennie James who bowed out in favor of a role on sibling series Fear the Walking Dead. "In the first episode, that's where he starts," Lincoln recalls. "And that's gone now."
With both James and Riggs exiting the show, Lincoln is the only original cast member remaining who is among the first 10 to appear. "There's only me left in the top 10," Lincoln said. "Norman and Melissa and Danai and LC, they're all in the twenties...This job is, as I said before, glorious and unique. I wouldn't trade it for the world. The stinger is the fact that I seem to be the guy left on the pier waving people away. That's powerful."
"All of the back eight is this terrible death," Lincoln concludes. "This emotion is unending throughout the whole cast and, I think, it's palpable. The cost of this battle is much more full because of what happened."
The Walking Dead returns for the second half of its eighth season on February 25, 2018. For complete coverage and insider info all year long, follow @BrandonDavisBD on Twitter.