Michael Cudlitz is set to return for The Walking Dead season 9, but as a director. The actor previously portrayed the comic book character Sgt. Abraham Ford on the AMC series throughout seasons 5 and 6, with a few episodes in season 4 and 7.
The character was first introduced in season 4's episode "Inmates." Ford and Rosita Espinosa were escorting Dr. Eugene Porter to Washington D.C., the location of a supposed cure to the zombie outbreak can be found. It was on their journey that they allied with Rick Grimes and his friends/family, eventually landing at Alexandria. But it didn't last forever. Ford was killed in the season 7 premiere along with Steven Yeun's Glen. It's been almost two years, and it looks like Cudlitz will finally be returning to The Walking Dead, but not in the way that people might expect.
According to ComicBook, Cudlitz will return for The Walking Dead season 9, but as a director, not an actor. He will direct the season's seventh episode. No former Walking Dead cast member has directed an episode of the series before, making Cudlitz the first. However, Fear the Walking Dead's Colman Domingo is slated to direct the 12th episode of that show's fourth season.
Interestingly, Cudlitz won't be the only returning cast member this upcoming season. Jon Bernthal will reprise his role as Shane Walsh in season 9, but only for one episode. There is a lot of speculation as to how Shane will make an appearance, as it is unlikely he'll turn up as a walker. Meeting his end at the hands of one-time partner Rick Grimes, Bernthal has appeared as Shane in previous episodes if only to haunt Rick further.
Since leaving The Walking Dead, Cudlitz has been busy with new, upcoming projects. The actor landed the role of Mike Cleary in Tim Doyle's new series The Kids Are Alright, about a working class family with eight kids set in the 1970s. He also has a role in the forthcoming film Driven, costarring Lee Pace, Judy Greer, and Jason Sudeikis. It seems, with his new directing gig, Cudlitz is staying busy since his Walking Dead exit. With anticipation for season 9 growing, it will be interesting to see the vision Cudlitz brings behind the camera as The Walking Dead is expected not only to have a time jump but also enter a new phase. Having been a member of the cast for quite some time, and as an actor understanding the characters and their motivations, Cudlitz's directing could bring something exciting and nuanced to the series.