“Let me just first say Andrew Lincoln is just one of the loveliest, best human beings you could ever meet. We all love him so much,” Kang said on The Walking Dead Season Nine Preview Special.
“He’s this man who’s an incredible leader and an incredible actor, we know each other’s families, we are family on The Walking Dead — so much of it has to do with the type of lead on show that he’s been.”
Kang, who has served as writer-producer on the series since its second season in 2011, said the entire cast and crew put their all into handling what will be the series’ biggest-ever departure when Lincoln steps away.
“To write his exit on the show, which we knew was coming, is just... I just don’t want to mess it up. I want to do service to this character,” Kang said.
“The writers, and everybody, the crew, the actors, everybody’s just putting their all into it because we love him so much and we respect him so much, and we want to do service to that journey. I feel a great responsibility to the fans to try to write him out in a way that’s worthy of his character, so I hope that we accomplished that.”
The widely-circulated news of Lincoln’s exit dominated the narrative this off-season and the subsequent loss of Rick Grimes comes as the biggest shake-up to hit the series. Publicly confirming his departure for the first time at San Diego Comic-Con in July, Lincoln called his tenure as Rick Grimes “the most extraordinary, amazing and beautiful experience” of his career.
“We’re deeply proud of the work that we’ve done this season. I think that Angela is astonishing, leading with such class,” Lincoln said. “What I wanted to say is my relationship with Mr. Grimes is far from over, and some part of me will always be a machete-wielding sheriff’s deputy from London, England.”
He has since lamented that his exit was spoiled, telling EW, “I still regret that the story broke, because I believe in story and I think it would have been... it’s gonna be a great season but it would have been greater if it was not spoiled to a degree.”
The father of two said at a press conference during Comic-Con he had only started to mull over leaving once his children “got older and less portable.”
“It’s a new chapter of the story. The first eight seasons were intended to be one chapter, and then we kind of go into a new part of what our characters are doing,” Kang said on Talking Dead. “We are seeing what happens after the war has concluded. We see people trying to rebuild civilization and grapple with what that means, what the future is, and how you end up looking to the past in some ways to build up the present and the future.”
The Walking Dead returns to AMC Sunday, October 7.