Norman Reedus Comments on Taking Over ‘The Walking Dead’ From Andrew Lincoln

After Andrew Lincoln publicly confirmed for the first time his upcoming exit from The Walking Dead in season 9, co-star Norman Reedus responded to taking on a bigger role in Rick Grimes’ absence.

“This is a very female-driven season. It’s less bravado [and] a lot more depth,” the Daryl Dixon star said at San Diego Comic-Con Friday. “But you can’t take Rick’s place.”

New showrunner Angela Kang, who has served as a writer-producer on the series since joining its second season in 2011, previously revealed The Walking Dead’s female characters — namely Michonne (Danai Gurira), Maggie (Lauren Cohan), and Carol (Melissa McBride) — will step up and drive the season as they assume bigger leadership roles.

Reedus will succeed Lincoln as new series lead after Lincoln’s departure. Rick will reportedly be “phased out” and Lincoln is expected to be gone before the midway point on season 9.

Series veteran Reedus, who has been with The Walking Dead since its third episode in its premiere season in 2010, has been negotiating a $20 million payday to take over as leading man.

Rick and Daryl will spend some of season 9 on the outs and butting heads as they did for a time in season 8. It was learned last week Rick and Daryl’s relationship will be “at an all time low” and more strained than ever following Rick’s controversial decision to spare Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), ending the war.

“No, I’m not turning on brother Rick,” Reedus wrote on Instagram in April after the season 8 finale saw Daryl align himself with Maggie and Jesus (Tom Payne) in the season closer’s final moments, suggesting the trio will act out against the imprisoned Negan. “Everyone chill.”

The just-released Comic-Con trailer teases more Rick vs. Daryl when the bowman asks, “We on the same side, Rick?”

“Well,” Rick answers, “you tell me.”

“I truly believe this is the best leading man in television,” Danai Gurira, who plays Rick’s lover Michonne, said of Lincoln during today’s Comic-Con. “His discipline, character, kindness has taught us how to carry on without him. He has so equipped us, I couldn’t be thankful enough to learn from him. It’s been a true joy.”

“I think the best way to honor Rick,” she added, “is to tell really honest stories.”

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“The narrative is being freed up,” Lincoln said. “It’s always the show I felt that we would head towards when we did the pilot. But I thought about [leaving] when my kids became less portable.”

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