Before reading anymore, there are spoilers below if you haven't seen last night's episode of The Walking Dead! It was a massive send off for Andrew Lincoln's Rick Grimes on the show where he took center stage for more than 9 seasons. As many thought the character's death was imminent, the surprise took us all at the end when Rick survived his wounds. The show then of course took a major time jump forward without him, but one thing was perfectly clear. Rick wasn't dead, which left the door wide open for any kind of possibility AMC could cook up for him the future. Now that future is clear.

AMC has announced the first projects in development from Chief Content Officer Scott M. Gimple for The Walking Dead Universe. A series of AMC Studios Original Films, starring Andrew Lincoln and written by Gimple, are planned to continue the story of Rick Grimes, with the first expected to begin production as early as 2019.

In Andrew Lincoln's final appearance on the hit series The Walking Dead, the character of Rick Grimes is mortally wounded and last seen being flown away by helicopter to an unknown destination. The first film will explore the story of where Rick is taken and what he faces in a new corner of the zombie apocalypse. Actor Andrew Lincoln told fans on Talking Dead right after the episode aired...

"It's not the beginning of the end, it's the end of the beginning. And I like the idea that we get to tell a bigger story, maybe with a sort of wider vista. And I've always been interested in what's going on out there, you know, whether or not there is contact with the wider world. I want to know the meta of it all. And I suppose to be able to kind of touch upon that in a contained story for me is a very exciting proposition ... Maybe it's the start of a bigger story."

As part of Gimple's multi-year plan for The Walking Dead Universe, there are other projects currently in development, including additional films, specials, series, digital content and more. Some of the stories will relate to The Walking Dead as fans know it while others will be standalone stories that break into new creative territory.

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"We have a lot on the horizon - starting with a new epic featuring one of the greatest leading actors in television history and one of the best people I've ever met," said Gimple. "These films are going to be big evolutions of what we've been doing on the show, with the scope and scale of features. We're starting with the first part of the continuing story of Rick Grimes, and there is much more on the way, featuring yet-unseen worlds of The Walking Dead and faces from the show's past, as well as new characters we hope to become favorites, told by TWD veterans and emerging voices. We want to break new ground with different, distinct stories, all part of the same world that's captured our imagination for nearly a decade of the Dead."
"We believe this is a world and narrative with many possibilities and opportunities for character development and we're excited to expand the series into a franchise that can live across multiple formats," said David Madden, president of original programming for AMC, SundanceTV and AMC Studios. "For many years, fans have talked about things in the apocalypse they want to see and now we have an opportunity to explore those stories, beginning with the character who started it all, Rick Grimes."

Based on the comic book series written by Robert Kirkman and published by Image Comics, The Walking Dead tells the story of the months and years after a zombie apocalypse and follows a group of survivors who travel in search of a safe and secure home. The series is executive produced by chief content officer Scott M. Gimple, showrunner Angela Kang, Robert Kirkman, Gale Anne Hurd, David Alpert, Greg Nicotero, Tom Luse and Denise Huth.