During The Walking Dead Season Nine preview special on Sunday night, Payton opened up about Lincoln's exit quite candidly. The actor admitted he thought the Lincoln and Rick Grimes departure would be the beginning of the end for the show.
"It's been tough for everybody and when I found out about it, I stared packing my bags," Payton said. "Then I started reading the story. There's a moment that happens in the story we're telling, and I went over to my suitcase and I started unpacking…How do you go on without Rick Grimes? I read this moment, and I'm pretty sure everyone will know it when the see it, and it's arresting. I thought, 'Oh my god, we've got so much more to do!' My drawers are full."
Lincoln is only expected to be around for less than half of The Walking Dead's ninth season, so the moment Payton's referencing likely won't take too long to arrive when the new episodes being airing.
It's an interesting sentiment when paired with Lincoln's comments regarding his exit from the series. At no point has Lincoln claimed Rick would die to allow the actor to make his way back home to the United Kingdom, but instead he promised his "relationship with Rick Grimes is far from over." How these two sentiments are tied together will be interesting to see when The Walking Dead returns for its ninth season.
Speaking to ComicBook.com at San Diego Comic-Con, Lincoln opened up about the upcoming episodes which had just been previewed in the extended trailer. "Without a doubt," there are vibes from the show's first season, Lincoln says. "I think there were a lot of the pilot episode that was reminiscent of this opening episode and also a couple of other episodes, too. We have a few surprises as we both know but we're not allowed to talk about."
As the show heads into a pivotal year, not only seeing Lincoln out but also welcoming Angela Kang as its new showrunner, the cast and crew have experienced a revitalized feeling on set.
"We loved it," Lincoln said. "We have to talk about Angela Kang if we talk about this season because she is the creative force this season. She's been on the show since Season Two and I think she's breathed new life into it and given us a collaborative feel on set and also just an energy. A real positive energy. It feels like the show that I always thought we would get to when I shot the pilot in Atlanta nine years ago."
The Walking Dead will return for its ninth season in the fall. Fear the Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on AMC, returning for the second half of its fourth season on Aug. 12. For complete coverage and insider info all year long, follow @BrandonDavisBD on Twitter.