Fans of one of The Walking Dead’s most popular characters can rest easy, at least for the time being: Norman Reedus doesn’t intend leave the AMC drama any time soon. That’s good news for viewers who said goodbye to Chandler Riggs and Lennie James in Season 8, and will have to endure the departures of longtime stars Andrew Lincoln and Lauren Cohan in the first half of Season 9.
Lincoln confirmed his exit in July, at Comic-Con International, and Cohan leaves following a contract dispute that led her to the new ABC drama Whiskey Cavalier. But Lincoln’s departure is permanent, Cohan and new showrunner Angela Kang have expressed a desire to continue working together as schedules allow. How exactly the show intends to scale back her appearances while she remains a person of significance as leader of the Hilltop community remains to be seen.
In contrast, while The Walking Dead is predictably mum about whether Rick will die, or instead go on walkabout, á la Morgan, Lincoln’s separation appears more final. The star has spoken publicly about his desire to spend more time with his family in London, and it’s difficult to imagine Rick walking away from the civilization he’s worked so hard to build.
But as upset as fans might be that this season will be Rick’s last, Reedus wants to stay until the bitter end. During a visit by CBR to the Georgia set of The Walking Dead, the actor spoke candidly about his desire to finish the job he started in Season 1, and stay with the drama until its final episode.
"You know, I started on Season 1 of the show, and I'd love to bookend it," he said. "I put so much effort into this. For me to walk away now would just seem so cowardly. It's a fight every day, in a million different ways. But it's a fight that I've been invested in. My family's here, I like my life here. I like riding my motorcycle through the country to work. I've been in New York a long, long time, and now every time I go back to New York I just wanna go back to Georgia."
There’s also a chance he could outlive the show itself, given AMC’s recent announcement that it plans to extend The Walking Dead franchise with standalone films and more series. When asked about the possibility of a spinoff or even a movie starring Daryl Dixon, Reedus again expressed enthusiasm, should the right project come along.
"I just want to tell honest stories," he said. "And I think sometimes, this show's a huge show. The scripts are this long, and you have this many days to shoot them, and it's work. It's tough. We shoot scenes on this show in an hour that if you were on a movie would take four days to shoot. You have that luxury on a film ... I would like to slow the pace entirely. Don't rush me; I'd like a tiny script and stretch it out. I think that would be fun and honest. So, yeah, if it was like that."
While The Walking Dead has gotten a little less deadly in recent years, given the amount of plot armor longtime characters like Carol, Daryl and Rick have built up, it's still a show on which no character is truly safe. Riggs’ departure as Carl Grimes last season came as a brutal shock to both the actor and audiences, especially considering many viewed The Walking Dead as a story about a young man coming of age during the apocalypse. So, even if Reedus wants to stay on the show for as long as it remain, there's always the possibility he won't get his wish.
That said, considering the amount of backlash received by the series, and the network, following the deaths of fan favorites Abraham and Glenn, killing off a major character like Daryl, who’s arguably more popular than Rick, could wind up seriously backfiring. While it’s never good to speculate too much about this deadly show, it's probably safe to conclude Reedus will stick around until the finale.
Returning Sunday, Oct. 7, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on AMC, The Walking Dead stars Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Lauren Cohan, Danai Gurira, Melissa McBride, Lennie James, Alanna Masterson, Josh McDermitt, Christian Serratos, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan.