The Walking Dead is in uncharted territory without Andrew Lincoln and his Rick Grimes character. The comic series did not lose the character until its penultimate issue, years ahead of the AMC series in its story's timeline. However, Lincoln asked for an exit from the series as a means to get more time at home which is leading to a movie continuing Rick's story, which leaves the zombie series without its main character. For The Walking Dead universe's chief content officer Scott Gimple, losing the lead of the show was a tough path to navigate but one which he maintained confidence in.
"There were people who were concerned about that who were making me concerned about that, but I don’t want to imply that I was certain how it would go," Gimple admitted to EW. "For this, I just felt I was more worried about the way that Rick was leaving. I was hoping that audiences would be intrigued and want to see what all that was about, which I feel is basically what happened. I was pretty nervous about that, but I feel that Rick is a gigantic part of the show and he has a gigantic story, and that story could be told in any number of ways."
The priority remains to honor the journey which launched The Walking Dead. "As long as we kept telling Rick’s story, we’re doing right by the audience," Gimple said. "It could be in any medium. Maybe not any medium, but it could be in the movies and hopefully people would be happy with that. I felt the show had so much to offer, even with losing someone as huge as that, that they would dig it. I know that I was still interested in watching it. I was sure that we would tell that story, and I was hoping that the audience would appreciate that. I was also, in all the things I talked about with [showrunner Angela Kang], so excited to see them execute that I just felt the audience would feel the same way. Angela has done such a marvelous job in executing it."
While Rick's exit from The Walking Dead limits the stories that can be told with Lincoln on the small screen, Gimple emphasizes the positives like being able to spend more time with other characters and continuing his stories in the movies.
"To me, so much of it goes back to when I was a kid, and just getting excited for the possibilities of story," Gimple said. "Movies would take so long between them… I guess I’m talking about Star Wars and Empire, Jedi, but there was this time that you just had to dream as to what on earth was going to happen. I always look upon that as a positive thing, and it was sort of a necessary thing in this case, and it was built into our process with Walking Dead. Yet, even in episode 6 last season, it’s just boom, we hit the ground running with this reinvention of the show that is very organic because of everything that had happened. It just offers this brand new thing on this show that had been there for nine years. I think a lot of it was very fortuitous the way it happened as far as timing goes." Still, some might say the movies are taking a little too long to get started.
The Walking Dead returns for the rest of its tenth season on February 23 at 9pm ET on AMC.