"I remember that last final scene with him on the bridge — Greg [Nicotero], who directed that episode, was like, 'What do you want to do here?' And I knew everyone was gonna run in and try to save him, but the deal was, because he and I are so tight on that show, I wanted to get there first and see that he's f—ed, there's no way he's going to get out of this," Reedus told co-star Dan Fogler (Luke) on Dan Fogler's 4D Experience.
"And I wanted — like somebody dying on their deathbed, I wanted to be there holding his hand. Like, 'I know you're not gonna make it, but I'm here with you, I want you to see my face on the way out.'"
The Daryl Dixon star added "other things" were shot as "a lot of the group ran off" to save Rick, who was badly wounded after suffering a gruesome injury when he was bucked off his horse onto a piece of protruding rebar.
Rick, having steered a horde of walkers towards a bridge under construction, then fired at a bundle of overturned dynamite as those closest to him, including lover Michonne (Danai Gurira), watched helplessly. Rick's last stand obliterated the mass herd of walkers, sending the fiery corpses into the raging river below — seemingly claiming Rick's own life in the process.
"We had to reshoot things because certain people didn't think that made sense that some people ran into it and some people didn't, so we had to shoot extra bits and pieces to add in there and stuff, but I wanted to hold my ground and play that like that," Reedus said.
"There's only so many arrows I have, there's a million walkers about to step on him, there's no way he's getting out of this. So I wanted to play it like I'm gonna hold his hand through it, and I think it came across that way."
Rick survived the explosion at the bridge, washing ashore gravely injured but alive, before being rescued by Anne (Pollyanna McIntosh).
Lincoln has since exited the mothership series in favor of a three-movie deal, with the first entry in that television movie trilogy set to explore Rick and Anne's whereabouts and bring answers about the helicopter group and their community.
Reedus, who previously revealed he and Lincoln struck a pact to exit the show at the same time, added he understands Lincoln's stepping away from the television show to spend more time with his family overseas.
"He and I had a deal, he was like, 'I'm not gonna leave the show unless you leave the show.' And we made that deal a couple seasons ago," Reedus said.
"And he came to me, and people are like, 'What do you think of him leaving?' I'm like, I knew he was gonna leave like a year before everyone else. I can't be mad at him. He's got two little kids, and he's been away from them for nine years. I get it."
His long-time best friend is "such a good family man," Reedus said, and "part of him being a good actor and a good leader of a show is the fact he has that side to him, so I get it. He's sorely missed."
Reedus, along with longtime co-star Melissa McBride (Carol), has since inked a three-year mega deal with AMC, retaining Daryl Dixon for the foreseeable future of the quickly-expanding Walking Dead Universe.
The Walking Dead returns to AMC with its back half of Season Nine Sunday, February 10.