The expected departure of The Walking Dead star Andrew Lincoln from the hit AMC drama apparently will be gradual.
Following the surprise report on Tuesday that Lincoln, who stars as Rick Grimes, will leave during the upcoming ninth season, more details have begun to emerge about about how that exit might play out. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the actor will be "phased out" in the season, in a way similar to co-star Lauren Cohan, whose character Maggie Rhee will appear only in six episodes.
After Lincoln's departure, co-star Norman Reedus will become the lead protagonist of the series in what's expected to be a $20 million deal with AMC.
Lincoln's imminent departure is only the latest high-profile exit for the hit series. Cohan's contract negotiations with AMC stalled, leading her instead to sign on to the new ABC series Whiskey Cavalier. Original cast member Chandler Riggs was written out of the series in the middle of Season 8, with his character Carl Grimes opting to commit suicide rather than transform into a walker.
The significant losses in front of the camera come amid shakeups behind the scenes, as showunner Scott Gimple was promoted to a position overseeing the larger Walking Dead franchise, while Angela Kang was promoted to succeed him.
The Walking Dead stars Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes, Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon, Lauren Cohan as Maggie Rhee, Danai Gurira as Michonne, Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier, Lennie James as Morgan Jones, Alanna Masterson as Tara Chambler, Josh McDermitt as Eugene Porter, Christian Serratos as Rosita Espinosa, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan.