Jeffrey Dean Morgan previews what The Walking Dead will look like after Andrew Lincoln's departure this season, saying that the series will go through a soft reboot. Playing Negan in the AMC juggernaut series, Morgan's character had been the main antagonist of the show for two full seasons before he was finally defeated in last year's finale. After his capture, many thought that Morgan's stint in the series would also be over, but he's expected to continue reprising his role once season 9 begins this month.
The Walking Dead's upcoming outing will pick up after a significant amount of time has passed and promos released for the new season hint at the survivors from different communities trying to co-exist peacefully with each other with Rick and Michonne (Danai Gurira) serving as their leaders. But things are eventually going to go in an unexpected turn with the impending exit of Lincoln sometime this year.
Catching up with Extra, Morgan talked about what The Walking Dead world would look like without Rick Grimes in it. And while he can't delve into narrative specifics, the actor revealed that the show will inevitably go through a shake-up considering that Rick has always been the central figure in the series.
“Rick Grimes, I think, is synonymous with Walking Dead, so it’s a little bit of a reboot for the show — but in a good way.
“I really feel positive about that aspect of it, but I tell you, I miss Andy. We all miss Andy. Just his energy and how positive and gung-ho he is, it’s a rare thing and he is an incredible leader. And we feel his loss.”
It's still unclear how Lincoln's departure will play out in the show's narrative, and there's a myriad of ways that Rick can be written out of the series - from dying to just consciously separating from Alexandria (although the latter would be trickier to pull off given that means that he'll leave Michonne and Judith, something that is a bit difficult to believe given that Rick just lost Carl). Interestingly, when Morgan was asked if there's any way that Rick reappears in the future, he coyly responded "we'll see." It's important to know, however, that this is not necessarily a confirmation that the former sheriff's deputy won't meet his end to make way for Lincoln's exit. Over the years, The Walking Dead has been able to find ways to bring back dead characters to factor in the current season - case in point: Jon Bernthal who is set to reprise his role as Shane Walsh in the upcoming outing.
While The Walking Dead has shined a spotlight on different characters, it goes without saying that Rick is technically its main protagonist. Regardless of how the people behind the series go about his imminent departure, the AMC show will undoubtedly look and feel very different without him at the forefront of its narrative. Obviously, this would be a huge blow to the show especially since it just lost Chandler Riggs following Carl Grimes' death last season. But depending on how this shake-up plays out, it might actually be the change it needs to rejuvenate the series after suffering a decline in quality mirrored by its drop in ratings the last several seasons.
The Walking Dead season 9 premieres Sunday, October 7 on AMC.