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Andrew Lincoln to leave The Walking Dead during season 9, Norman Reedus to replace as lead

His character will reportedly appear in just six episodes next season

Jacob Stolworthy
Wednesday 30 May 2018 08:14 BST
Trailer for The Walking Dead season 8 episode 16

In bombshell news for fans of The Walking Dead, lead star Andrew Lincoln is reportedly leaving the series after nine years.

It's been reported that Lincoln - who has played Rick Grimes since the show's very first episode aired in 2010 - will only appear in six episodes of the forthcoming season when it premieres later this year with Norman Reedus' Daryl becoming the show's main character (and one of TV's highest-paid stars).

While Lincoln is yet to confirm the news himself, Collider claims to know exactly how the character will leave hinting that he won't die but will instead be “walking away” by the time the ninth season wraps.

There's no denying that Lincoln's departure spells trouble for the series that has seen falling ratings and middling reviews for its past few seasons despite remaining one of the most consistently exciting shows on television. Last season saw the departure of another original star - Chandler Riggs, who played Lincoln's on-screen son, Carl. Following Lennie James' jump to spinoff Fear the Walking Dead, the only remaining original characters on the main show are Carol (Melissa McBride) and Daryl (Norman Reedus).

According to Collider, the latter has been offered a substantial pay-rise to become what will essentially be the hero of the show.

Lincoln's departure may come as a shock, however, producers of the show have insisted the series could continue without its lead star for many years now. Just months ago, Lincoln himself - during an interview with The Independent - notably hastened to answer a question regarding how long he'd like to remain on the series.

One other character whose fate remains in question is Maggie Rhee. Lauren Cohan, who has played the role since season two, got caught up in contract negotiations with rumours surrounding her exit intensifying upon her casting in the pilot of ABC comedy Whiskey Cavalier. While Cohan will return for season nine, Lincoln's departure means that anything can happen - especially considering Whiskey Cavalier has been granted a full series. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Cohan will be phased out of the show's second half much in the same way Lincoln will be.

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