Rick Grimes actor Andrew Lincoln would "never say never" to returning to The Walking Dead for its upcoming eleventh and final season. The longtime Walking Dead leading man exited the television series during its ninth season, where Anne (Pollyanna McIntosh) shuttled a gravely wounded Rick to a new corner of the zombie apocalypse aboard a Civic Republic Military helicopter. As Lincoln prepares to return to his role for the first time since 2018 in the untitled Walking Dead feature film from creator Robert Kirkman and franchise chief content officer Scott Gimple, Lincoln isn't ruling out appearing in the television show's expanded 24-episode final season:
"That’s a very good question," Lincoln told SFX Magazine when asked about Rick's return to the main show. "The easy answer is I have no idea. I don't think it's written yet, but I would never say never to that because everybody that's still doing the TV show are dear friends, and it's an extraordinary feat that they're still going and making this beautiful and ground-breaking show that still resonates with the world."
After spinning Lincoln's Rick off into the film franchise in Season 9 episode "What Comes After," Gimple said on a 2018 episode of Talking Dead that the exit episode is "the end of Rick Grimes on The Walking Dead" and Rick's story would continue in the films. A year later, in November 2019, Walking Dead showrunner Angela Kang said "the door is always open" for Rick to return to the series and that Lincoln "can come back anytime."
Originally announced as a trilogy of AMC original films that would air on the same network as the television show, AMC later partnered with Universal Pictures to release all three films only in theaters.
Gimple confirmed in September 2020 that the first film, which suffered a lengthy production delay due to COVID-19, is still planned for theatrical release despite the coronavirus pandemic. In January, Lincoln, who lives in the U.K., told Extra that his Rick Grimes return could begin filming this spring-summer in the United States "if everything works and I can leave my country."
In March, weeks after the expanded Final Season began filming in Georgia, Kang revealed in an interview that Walking Dead producers "have a sense of where [the show] might end," adding that "we are working on all of that." The Final Season will begin airing in August 2021 and run through 2022; a release date for the feature film has not been announced.
Follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter for all things TWD. The Final Season of The Walking Dead begins Sunday, August 22, on AMC.