Andrew Lincoln will reportedly leave The Walking Dead after season 9, while Norman Reedus has been offered a pay raise to step up and become the series' lead. Big changes are coming for AMC's long-running zombie drama The Walking Dead. After ratings dropped off significantly in seasons 7 and 8, the show will get a new showrunner for season 9 in longtime writer Angela Kang. Former showrunner Scott Gimple has moved on to oversee all Walking Dead-related properties at AMC.
TWD already shook up its main cast last season with the shocking mid-year demise of long-time regular Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs). Later, the finale brought an end to the season-long All Out War arc and the defeat - but not death - of controversial bad guy Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). After the events of the finale, the future of the show seems very much up in the air story-wise, though most expect comic book villains The Whisperers are due to make their debut sooner rather than later.
Now, in the biggest shake-up of them all, longtime Walking Dead lead actor Andrew Lincoln, who plays Rick Grimes, is reportedly set to leave the show after the upcoming ninth season. As reported by Collider, Lincoln is expected to appear in only a half-dozen of the season's episodes. Additionally, Collider says Norman Reedus, who plays fan-favorite character Daryl Dixon, has been offered big money to become the series' lead after Lincoln's departure.
Andrew Lincoln isn't the only main series actor set to appear in only a handful of episodes during the upcoming season. Reportedly, Maggie Rhee actress Lauren Cohan will herself see a reduced workload after re-signing for the new season. Cohan recently signed on for the ABC series Whiskey Cavalier, leading to speculation that she might walk away from TWD altogether. But Cohan was able to work out a deal where she can film Whiskey Cavalier, which has already been picked up to series, and still continue on The Walking Dead.
Unlike Cohan, Andrew Lincoln has no major announced commitments pulling him away from The Walking Dead. But no doubt the actor has received a lot of offers in recent years that he's been forced to turn down due to his obligations to the hit series. Now, presumably, he will have the freedom to pursue other projects. With Lincoln set to appear in only a handful of episodes before exiting the show, Angela Kang has the task of wrapping up Rick Grimes' arc in only a few hours of television.
What happens to The Walking Dead without Rick, the show's central character since season 1, is anybody's guess. However, many have long speculated that the show could go on successfully without Rick Grimes. Indeed, some have even argued that the character of Rick, who is subject to constant wild shifts in behavior, has become a detriment to the series. Last season many even complained that Rick had completely lost his moral compass and become a villain worse than even Negan himself. Whatever happens with The Walking Dead, it's clear the show will soon be very different. But will the changes reverse the series' sagging ratings? And how much longer will the series even continue beyond season 9?