“This will be my last season, playing the part of Rick Grimes,” the actor announced at the show’s San Diego Comic-Con panel on Friday. “I love this show. It means everything to me. I love the people who make this show. I promise not to cry — I’ve done enough crying on screen.
“I’m particularly fond of the people who watch this show, you people,” Lincoln continued, addressing the fans in the audience. “This has been the most extraordinary, amazing and beautiful experience of my career… So I just want to thank you.”
Lincoln added that his “relationship with Mr. Grimes is far from over. And a large part of me will always be a machete-wielding, stetson-wearing, zombie-slaying sheriff’s deputy from London, England. What a thing. I’m really, really excited about this season. … This has always been an ensemble, and it will continue to be an ensemble. No one is bigger than the story, and the story this year is unbelievable.”
Despite his love for the show, Lincoln said it was time for him to pack it in. “These guys here and everybody back in Atlanta are the greatest surrogate family I could have wished for. But I do have a real family, and it’s time for me to go home,” Lincoln explained.
Executive producer Robert Kirkman first confirmed Lincoln’s Season 9 exit in an interview with filmmaker Kevin Smith. “This is somebody that I’ve known for almost a decade, somebody that I love,” he said. “He’s been sweating in Georgia away from his family for so long.”
As for how Rick will be exit, Lincoln “wants to do something special on the way out,” Kirkman teased. “We’ve got something amazing planned… anybody who loves Rick Grimes, loves the world of The Walking Dead, you’re gonna want to see what we do.”
Season 9 of The Walking Dead — which kicks off with a significant time jump — premieres this October on AMC