The Walking Dead community received quite a shock yesterday when it was revealed that Andrew Lincoln, who portrays lead character Rick Grimes, would be departing the series in the upcoming ninth season. In the wake of his departure, it was reported that co-star Norman Reedus would be getting a massive pay increase, somewhere in the realm of $20 million.
While that contract certainly seems to be in the works, it's nowhere near a done deal just yet.
In The Hollywood Reporter's piece on Lincoln's departure, veteran TV journalist and scooper Lesley Goldberg noted that Reedus and AMC haven't yet signed on the dotted line to give the original cast member a pay-bump to become the top-billed actor on the series.
According to Goldberg's report, contract negotiations were part of the reason that the Season 9 renewal announcement came later than usual. The contracts of both Reedus and Lincoln were up after Season 8, and they had new deals in place before the next installment was announced.
Lincoln already has a contract finished for Season 9, but he won't be appearing in the entire 16 episodes. The actor will likely be phased out in a similar fashion to co-star Lauren Cohan, who has portrayed Maggie since Season 2.
Cohan, now starring in Whiskey Cavalier, a new series on ABC, is only contracted for a total of six episodes on The Walking Dead this season.
Several original cast members have departed over the course of the last year and a half. Chandler Riggs' Carl Grimes, one of the biggest characters in the franchise, was killed off in the middle of Season 8. Lennie James' character Morgan Jones, who first appeared in the series premiere, left the show at the conclusion of last season in order to star in Fear the Walking Dead.
By the end of Season 9, following the departures of Lincoln and Cohen, Reedus will be one of only two Season 1 cast members remaining on the show. The other is fan-favorite Carol, played by Melissa McBride.
The Walking Dead will return for its ninth season in the fall. Fear the Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 pm ET on AMC. For complete coverage and insider info all year long, follow @BrandonDavisBD on Twitter.