“I think it was about day two of filming and I asked Greg Nicotero, who was shooting the episode, ‘How many pints of blood does a human actually hold? Because I’m not sure I’m going to make it through the credit sequence,’” Lincoln told Entertainment Tonight.
The Rick Grimes star originally intended to exit the role in Season Eight, but said making that choice was “an impossible decision.”
“And I think that, because the season was going so well, I was enjoying it, and we’d just been at Comic-Con — I just wasn’t ready,” Lincoln said. “And I spoke about it, but it was like, you have to get people ready for it. And I realized very quickly that I wasn’t. So yeah, I went for one more.”
AMC has since readied audiences by officially designating the front half of Season Nine as “Rick Grimes’ final episodes.” The move comes as Lincoln steps away from the series to be more present in the lives of his young children.
Norman Reedus, jokingly dubbing his best friend a “rat bastard” for leaving, says he was the first to know of Lincoln’s intentions to leave. “We kind of had a little pact that — if one of us would leave, the other one would leave. So I knew way in advance,” Reedus said.
“I was really bummed. I tried to talk him out of it, but I get it. He’s got two little kids and he lives way over in England, so I understand. I can’t be mad at him. And I talk to him all of the time. But still, what a bastard.”
Lincoln began prepping his exit as far back as Season Four in conjunction with then-showrunner and executive producer Scott Gimple, with both agreeing a then far off eighth season would make for a good exit point.
“We shared young families and there was a lot of synchronicity between the two of us that were two heads of a show that seemed to be getting bigger and bigger. We spoke about it and said, ‘There’s got to be a shape. We need a shape to work out if we get to season 5 then maybe we’ve got a couple more,’” Lincoln previously told EW.
“There were all these ifs and buts and strategies. And I said, ‘Eight sounds like a good number.’ Eight seasons was certainly something. Last season was a shape that I had in my head and it was certainly something that Scott was possibly thinking about as well that was a completion of a certain chapter which could be called Rick’s falling.”
The episode, ‘What Comes After,’ is scripted by Gimple and Matthew Negrete and directed by Nicotero. Lincoln’s final episode airs November 4.
The Walking Dead Season Nine launches Sunday, October 7 at 9/8c on AMC.