How do the characters of The Walking Dead move forward after the war with Negan? How does the show move forward with Andrew Lincoln’s impending departure?
The cast and creative team address these questions and more about the future of the show during a press conference at Comic Con after the Friday afternoon panel. Of course, the first questions were about Lincoln’s decision to leave the show after the upcoming ninth season. Is there a way for him to leave without Rick being killed off?
Lincoln points to Lennie James, whose character, Morgan, left TWD very much alive and is now on Fear the Walking Dead. “I’d prefer the Lennie James of it all,” Lincoln said. “But I’m really proud of what we have in store.”
The bond between the cast is well documented and carrying that relationship through to the end was an essential part of his final season. “I was able to have intimate scenes with all the people at this table, and that was very important to me.”
The actor would’ve preferred Rick’s departure be a complete surprise for the audience but once word leaked out, that option was off the table. Throughout his nine years on the show, Lincoln said he had been wanting to spend more time with his family, who lives in England. In season 4, he and executive producer Scott Gimple discussed the future and shape of the show and Lincoln now feels the narrative has been freed from Rick’s POV to include many other character’s experiences.
As for what the ninth season will look like, executive producer Greg Nicotero said they wanted to reinvent the show and part of doing so was jumping ahead two years from the conclusion of season eight. The tensions that developed because of Rick’s decision to spare Negan’s life continue to go unresolved.
“[We’re] still a family,” says Lauren Cohen (Maggie), “but we are in disagreement.”
Danai Gurira (Michonne) echoed that sentiment. “There is so much tension because of Rick sparing Negan. It’s about people who love each other and want to be on the same page but aren’t.”
Speaking of Negan, Jeffery Dean Morgan believes there is a way to rehabilitate him but whether we’ll ever see that happen is unclear. “We will definitely see a different side of Negan at the beginning of season nine. There’s room for redemption, but not sure if there will be,” said Morgan.
Season nine will be longtime writer Angela Kang’s first season as showrunner and she is excited to show less war and more of the process of rebuilding civilization. Cohen described it as the show we all know but with new, different, and exciting elements we haven’t seen before. Norman Reedus (Daryl) put it this way: “This is a very female-driven season and it’s nice to have it that way. It feels like we’re shooting a Western with feeling.”
The actor also teased a scene between Daryl and Rick in season nine, episode four that he described as “f-ing epic.”
The shift in the show’s focus provides an opportunity for the relationships between characters to grow, including Daryl and Carol and Rick and Michonne. Speaking about the former pair, Reedus said the two have always been similar and some of his favorite moments in season nine are scenes with Melissa McBride. “They’re like two magnets,” Reedus said about Daryl and Carol. “They always connect.”
Gurira said something similar about Rick and Michonne, who she feels have always often developed at the same time and because of one another. Two years of peace has allowed Rick and Michonne to build a deeper, more loving relationship, Lincoln said. It’s obvious that depth and care carries over into strong friendships between Lincoln and Gurira, as well as with the rest of the cast.
“Andrew has made us all better,” Gurira said, as the other cast members nodded in agreement. “Through his character. Through his drive. Through his leadership. He’s helped us learn [as actors] how to carry on without him. I truly believe this is the best leading man on TV.”