Rick Grimes may eventually return to The Walking Dead, according to actor Khary Payton. Created by Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead started life as a popular graphic novel series. It was eventually adapted by Frank Darabont into a hugely successful television show. The show has had a number of different showrunners since it first premiered in 2010. Angela Kang assumed the role from Scott M. Gimple for season 9, which recently aired its second episode.
The ratings have continued to decline, yet the show remains one of the biggest on TV. Anticipation for the current season has been especially pronounced following the news that it'll reportedly be Andrew Lincoln's last as Rick Grimes. The character has served as the main character in both the graphic novels and the show from the outset. As such, he has been the stalwart in a story dominated by death and sweeping changes. His announced departure led to numerous theories regarding where the show goes from here and who will take the Colt Python-shaped baton from him. With fellow veteran survivor Maggie also departing the show, Norman Reedus' Daryl seemed like the popular bet. Reedus, however, was quick to deny the idea of taking over.
In an interview with Express, Payton weighed in on Lincoln's imminent departure. Payton joined the show as King Ezekiel back in season 7. He has been a prominent figure on the show ever since. When asked about Lincoln's last day of shooting, he had this to say:
“It was an amazing and surreal moment to be there and to be a part of seeing not just Rick kind of walk away - I’m not sure how you want to say that he leaves the show - but the way Andy left as well. When I look back and think about it I think it was an amazing event, and I just got this feeling that nothing’s set in stone, I’ll just leave it at that."
The actor also heavily praised Lincoln as an actor, a leader, and a person. "His energy still permeates this place, this production, and I hope we’ll always have this feeling," he stated. Regarding his own future on the show, he teased that there was a huge moment coming that would serve as part of a through-line for the show as a whole.
The idea that nothing is set in stone feels par for the course for The Walking Dead. While the show generally follows the same trajectory as the graphic novel, especially in terms of enemies and locations, there have been myriad differences over the years. Characters that are still surviving and thriving in the source material are gone on the show and vice versa. In the last season, even Rick Grimes' young son, Carl, was killed off. How Rick will ultimately leave the show has provoked much debate and speculation, with Lincoln himself teasing both Rick's death and another form of exit altogether.
The comment also works the other way around. Whether Rick does meet a bloody fate or is otherwise exiled from the group for his decision to spare Negan, it might not literally be the end for the character. Fan-favorite Carol was previously forced into exile, only to return in spectacular fashion. Equally, characters who have died have still popped up in sequent seasons - mostly in dreams or as hallucinations. Season 9 itself will see the return of the late Scott Wilson's Hershel, Sasha, and even Jon Bernthal's Shane. With the world of The Walking Dead set to continue for a while yet, the only thing preventing future appearances will be Lincoln's own desire to return. In the meantime, fans will merely have to wait on the edge of their seats to see how things unfold.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC