AMC's massive expansion plans for The Walking Dead continue to unfold, with three fan favorite stars signing (or currently negotiating) new multi-year franchise contracts. Over its last two seasons, Walking Dead has seen its ratings fall off a cliff, a trend that has continued into season 9. While the series' ratings still place it in the top tier of TV, that's only because it started from such a high perch to begin with. Yet, AMC clearly isn't phased by this decline, and is planning to expand the franchise in bold new ways.
The first of these big new expansion plans was made official last night, following Andrew Lincoln's last Walking Dead episode as Rick Grimes. Many fans had wondered if Rick would bite the dust on the way out, as so many Walking Dead characters have done before him. While the former cop indeed ended things in a bad way, he's not only going to survive, but thrive. Lincoln is set to play Rick in a trio of Walking Dead TV movies, which will explore what happens to him between his exit from the flagship AMC series and the much discussed time jump scene that revealed an older Judith Grimes.
Last night's report about Lincoln's movie deal teased that other familiar Walking Dead characters might appear in those Rick-centric projects too, with Daryl and Michonne specifically being cited as possibilities. In an interesting development, THR now reports that popular Walking Dead stars Norman Reedus (Daryl) and Melissa McBride (Carol) have just signed brand new multi-year contracts with the overall Walking Dead franchise. Meanwhile, Danai Gurira (Michonne) is in the process of negotiating a new franchise deal herself.
The deals newly signed by both Reedus and McBride are unique, in that they allow the actors to move freely between projects in The Walking Dead universe over the next three years, depending on the creative direction franchise decision makers choose to go in. One assumes that could include appearances in Rick's movie trilogy, or perhaps a guest shot on Fear the Walking Dead down the road. AMC has also previously expressed a desire to create new spinoff series that could potentially play host to the two stars. Still, it seems unlikely either will be plucked out of the flagship show anytime soon, as AMC has to know losing Rick as a regular leaves a big hole in the cast.
Specific details on Gurira's potential new contract are unavailable, but both Reedus and McBride just received a substantial pay raise, and with Gurira's rising film career, it's likely she'll be looking for a similar financial boost. However, that same movie career might prevent her would committing to the same type of long-term deal that her co-stars just signed. Keeping Gurira in the fold is definitely something AMC will be looking to do, not only because Lincoln left the main show, but because Lauren Cohan (Maggie) is set to depart as well.
The Walking Dead season 9 airs Sundays on AMC.