Andrew Lincoln has officially addressed his departure from The Walking Dead. The actor, who has played the show's lead character, Rick Grimes, ever since the pilot episode aired in 2010, is set to leave the series during the events of the upcoming season 9. This was recently confirmed by Robert Kirkman, who is an executive producer on the show and created the Image Comics series that it's based on. During the show's panel at San Diego Comic-Con, Lincoln took the opportunity to confirm his exit and to share some thoughts on the matter.

The Walking Dead season 9 panel at SDCC 2018 kicked off with the bittersweet moment from Andrew Lincoln. He took a couple of minutes to discuss his final season with the crowd, as opposed to dodging the question entirely or unsatisfyingly bobbing and weaving around it. Lincoln took plenty of time to thank the fans and to acknowledge the wonderful experience that he's had during the course of playing the part of Rick Grimes for nearly a decade. Here's what Lincoln had to say about it.

"This will be my last season playing the part of Rick Grimes. I love this show. It means everything to me. I love the people who make this show. I'm particularly fond of the people who watch this show. This has been the most extraordinary, amazing and useful experience of my career."

The actor also took a moment to support new showrunner Angela Kang, who takes over for Scott M. Gimple. "We're deeply, deeply proud of the work that we've done this season. I think Angela is astonishing and leading with such class, and a light deftness of touch," Lincoln said. Gimple will now oversee The Walking Dead universe for AMC. With Rick Grimes set to leave, Norman Reedus' Daryl Dixon will become the show's new lead.

Andrew Lincoln sounded quite emotional and sincere while addressing the crowd. The rest of the cast and moderator Yvette Nicole Brown remaining quite and giving the man time to address his fans. Lincoln also made it clear that, even though he's leaving during The Walking Dead season 9, his relationship with Rick Grimes isn't over.

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"My relationship with Mr. Grimes is far from over and a sort of large part of me will always be a machete-wielding, Stetson-wearing, zombie-slaying sheriff's deputy from London, England."

The crowd, though upset at first, was very supportive of the actor during his speech. The first full-length trailer for The Walking Dead season 9 was also revealed at the SDCC panel, previewing what will be our last season with Rick Grimes. There is going to be a significant time jump this season and Rick has aged quite a bit. Lauren Cohan, who plays Maggie, will also be leaving this season. The Walking Dead season 9 returns to AMC on Sunday, October 7. You can check out some videos of Andrew Lincoln speaking at the panel for yourself below.

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Ryan Scott