As eager as fans of The Walking Dead were for the AMC drama's Comic-Con International presentation to arrive with the hotly anticipated Season 9 trailer, there undoubtedly also a feeling of dread about what else the panel would bring: the expected, but unwelcome, confirmation that star Andrew Lincoln will leave the show.
AMC, and then Lincoln, too care of business early, premiering the trailer at the beginning of the Hall H presentation, followed by the actor's statement that this will indeed be his final season as Rick Grimes.
"I love this show, it means everything to me," he told the audience. "I love the people who make this show. I’m particularly fond of the people who watch the show. You people. This has been the most extraordinary, amazing and beautiful experience of my career made largely by you guys. Because of the relationship that we have with you guys, in this room and in rooms across the world … I think Angela [Kang, the new showrunner] is astonishing and leading with such class and light deftness of touch and enable us as actors to really breathe and deepen the relationships on screen. My relationship with Mr. Grimes is far from over. … I’m really, really really excited about this season. I think there are two episodes that for me are my favorite episodes since the pilot."
Although the cable network has yet to confirm details, it's been reported that Rick will be "phased out" in the upcoming season, with Lincoln appearing only in a handful of episodes. Lauren Cohan, who plays Maggie, is similarly set to leave partway through the season.