The Walking Dead is getting ready to air season 9 early into October, but the upcoming new episodes will be bittersweet for fans. While those still watching are always excited for a new season to premiere, it's common knowledge that the show will suffer some heavy losses very early on. In particular, both Lauren Cohan (Maggie) and Andrew Lincoln (Rick Grimes) have confirmed they will only appear in the first half of season 9 before being written out of the series, one way or another.
In Cohan's case, the actress has managed to land a starring role on the broadcast TV series Whiskey Cavalier. Because this directly interferes with her Walking Dead schedule, new showrunner Angela Kang was left with no choice but to devise a storyline for Maggie to leave. While a gruesome death seems like the obvious choice for a departing character, not all hope is lost for Maggie, as Kang revealed she still has plans to use the character in season 10, as long as Cohan's schedule will allow it.
Unfortunately for fans of Rick Grimes, however, Lincoln's exit is apparently final. Lincoln has no desire to return to the series as a recurring star, although he's planning to come back to direct at least one upcoming episode. It's unclear if Rick will die or if he'll be written out in a way that keeps his fate ambiguous, but one thing that's evident is that the character's story on the series is coming to a close.
So, why did Lincoln choose now to leave? If you ask co-star Tom Payne, who plays Jesus on the hit AMC series, it's for reasons both personal and professional. Namely, the job is taking its toll on Lincoln's personal life, keeping him away from his family for bulk of every year since 2010. The actor also points to the death of Chandler Riggs' Carl Grimes as a primary motivator for Lincoln to leave, feeling there wasn't much reason for Rick to go on after that. Payne detailed these thoughts out in a recent interview.
"I think when Carl died last year and Chandler left, I think that was a moment for him of: 'OK, where does this leave Rick? And how does he move forward?' I think that was a pause for thought. As far as Andy goes, I'm completely with him on the fact that he needs to spend some more time with his family. He had just had a baby when the show got picked up."
The Walking Dead has always made great use of its ensemble cast, but as the series began with Rick Grimes, Lincoln's character always felt like the lead. With the show's ratings gradually declining since the premiere of season 7, the effect of his leaving on the viewership has to be a concern. With plans to keep the series alive in some form for at least another ten years, however, AMC has no intention of calling it a wrap anytime soon. Tom Payne's words were originally printed at Digital Spy.