The biggest surprise in The Walking Dead season 8 trailer was the reveal of "Old Man Rick," which saw Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) laid up in bed, visibly older, more distinguished looking, a cane resting against the wall. The sequence had a dreamy haze to it, leading some fans to believe it was a dream sequence — or that, in a Wizard of Oz-inspired twist, the entire series up to this point was all a dream, and Rick was finally waking up from the coma he fell into way back in the 2010 pilot episode after being gunned down by criminals.
Lennie James, who plays long time survivor Morgan, strikes down the theory. When asked by GamesRadar if he pays attention to fan theories, James acknowledged he'd heard the conjecture before — but it's off-base.
"I don’t hear them very often to be absolutely honest, but I did hear – in the trailer that we showed - there is a shot of Rick in a bed and he slightly looks different to the way that he normally does and I did hear that lots of fans thought that that was Rick waking up out of the initial coma that he was in in episode 1, and that he was only now waking up out of it, and that the whole zombie apocalypse had just been a figment of his imagination," James said.
"That one was fun, and that would have been up there with ‘Bobby getting out of the shower’ in Dallas, but it’s not the case – but it was fun to find out about."
James isn't the first Walking Dead crew member to shoot down the "it's all a dream" idea: showrunner Scott M. Gimple debunked the theory on last month's Walking Dead preview special, saying, "He's not waking up from the coma. No coma. It's not a coma."
Leading man Andrew Lincoln admitted he found the idea of an older Rick interesting, noting the sequence is "in the future" and not Rick awaking from his coma. "It’s an older Rick," Lincoln teased. "So by virtue of the fact that you see, that means that it’s in the future."
Gimple and executive producer Greg Nicotero stated Rick's new look won't be fully explained by the end of the season 8 opener, but promised audiences will come to understand "about halfway through the season."
"We won’t quite know what it’s about, and then we’ll get an answer to that about halfway through," Gimple said. "It’s something that’s going to play out.”
The Walking Dead kicks off season 8 Sunday at 9/8c on AMC.