AMC/Gene Page(SAN DIEGO) — Rick Grimes will soon fight his last battle. The Walking Dead’s leading man, Andrew Lincoln, will be leaving the series after its upcoming ninth season, according to series creator Robert Kirkman.

In an IMDB interview, Kirkman — who also created the comic book series that the television show is based off of — addresses the rumors that the upcoming ninth season will be Lincoln’s last. “It’s looking that way,” Kirkman said reluctantly.

“He cares about the fans,” Kirkman continues. “He cares about the show deeply. He wants to do something special on the way out. We have something amazing planned. I wouldn’t want to spoil anything, but anybody who has been a fan of his journey, who loves Rick Grimes, who loves the world of The Walking Dead, you’re going to want to see what we do.

Kirkman also explains that it will be difficult to lose Lincoln’s character — Rick, who’s the series’ hero — because he doesn’t die in the comic books on which the series is based. 

“It does make the differences between the comic and the show more pronounced,” Kirkman explains. “But at the end of the day, it’s all about Andrew Lincoln. This is a human being. This is someone I have known for almost a decade, somebody that I love. He’s been sweating in Georgia, away from his family, for so long.”

Us Weekly reported back in May that Lincoln’s co-star, Norman Reedus, negotiated a $20 million contract to stay on and have his character Daryl Dixon take on a leading role in Lincoln’s absence. 

AMC, which airs The Walking Dead, hasn’t commented on any of the news. 

The Walking Dead’s ninth season premieres this fall. 

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