‘The Walking Dead’ Stars Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Norman Reedus Pay Tribute to Andrew Lincoln

The Walking Dead stars Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Norman Reedus expressed heartfelt well-wishes to exiting leading man and series “quarterback” Andrew Lincoln.

“I’ve been around for a long time, I’m old and I’ve done a lot of stuff. When I came on the show, I think Andy was the first person that kind of greeted me,” Morgan told Variety at San Diego Comic-Con.

Morgan, who plays arch foe Negan to Lincoln’s Rick Grimes, said the longtime series lead is “a true number one on that call sheet,” referring to a production’s main role.

“He is the leader of this show, and everyone kind of follows his lead, and he also — he leads with his heart. That’s a very rare quality,” Morgan said.

“We hear about casts being friends and hanging out, and a lot of the time it’s bullsh-t. I’ve lied about it before. But this show really is a family, and I think a lot of that has to do with Andy — and Norman, and some of the originals — but Andy has always been, I think, the guy. And the show is gonna miss him, we’re gonna miss him. He’s our buddy. And it’s gonna be a different vibe, and there’s no replacing him. So it’s a tough one for everybody, and we love him.”

“I hate that guy. God,” Reedus joked. The Daryl Dixon star has long served as Rick Grimes’ right hand man and Lincoln’s real-life best buddy.

“No, I mean, he’s been my BFF for a decade in the woods of Georgia. He’s been my trailer [roommate] — I’ve shared a trailer with him for nine years right now, so you know, he’s the first call I get when I wake up he calls me, we talk about the day as we’re driving to work, we get to work, we talk about the day, at lunch he’s in my trailer, and then we wrap and he calls me on the way home. It’s been like that every day, I’m gonna really miss that guy,” Reedus said.

Lincoln confirmed at Comic-Con his departure from the series with season 9. The star and father of two said he would be taking a break from acting to spend more time with family in England.

“But he’s not dead, you know,” Reedus added of Lincoln. “Like Jeff said, he’s the first one to work, he’s the last one out of there — if we’re doing a scene, he’s the one that’s screaming, ‘Come on, everybody!’ He’s that guy, he’s our quarterback. He’ll be missed. I sneak him scripts, you know, and and I will continue to do so, but yeah, he’s great. I love that guy.”

Reedus is poised to assume Lincoln’s leading man duties but told press at Comic-Con Friday “you can’t take Rick’s place.”

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“This will be my last season playing the part of Rick Grimes,” Lincoln said at The Walking Dead’s Hall H panel Friday. “I love this show. It means everything to me. I love the people who make this show.” He added his time on the series “has been the most extraordinary, amazing, and beautiful experience of my career.”

The Walking Dead returns with its season 9 premiere Sunday, October 7 on AMC.