‘The Walking Dead’ might bring back Andrew Lincoln and Lauren Cohan

Bidding a fond — and frequently bloody — farewell to characters on The Walking Dead has become a tradition of sorts for fans of AMC’s popular zombie drama series. And yet, the impending departure of one particular character has sent tremors through the show’s fan base and led to questions about whether the long-running series can survive without him.

Former sheriff Rick Grimes, the character played by Andrew Lincoln, who has led the series’ ragtag group of survivors through countless threats from both humans and living dead, will end his run on The Walking Dead with the upcoming season 9. AMC released a trailer for the season (see above) that focuses on Lincoln’s character and his looming exit from the series he has led since it premiered in 2010.

Titled “Rick Grimes’ Final Episodes,” the extended video — which runs almost six minutes — offers a preview of what’s to come for Rick in the ninth season, and teases some interesting moments that fans of The Walking Dead comic book series might find familiar. Fans looking for new footage certainly won’t be disappointed with the trailer — particularly the last set of scenes, which preview some of the new characters and terrifying moments planned for season 9.

But while Rick Grimes will be gone, the actor who plays him, Andrew Lincoln, might be back on the set in a completely different capacity. He’s reportedly gearing up to return to the set in Georgia to learn the ropes and try his hand at directing an episode. Both Michael Cudlitz, who played Abraham on the series, and Colman Domingo, who currently plays Victor in the spin-off series Fear the Walking Dead have directed episodes in addition to standing in front of the camera, so Lincoln wouldn’t be the first. Nonetheless, it’s clear his time with walkers isn’t done just yet, even if Rick has had enough.

Possibly joining Lincoln in exiting the show is Lauren Cohan, who has portrayed fellow survivor Maggie in the series since the second episode of season 2. Like Lincoln, Cohan is only contracted for the first six episodes of season 9, so two of the series’ longest-running characters are nearing the end of their zombie-filled journey in the upcoming season.

However, Cohan’s exit might only be temporary. While Cohan is set to star in ABC series Whiskey Cavalier, the door hasn’t closed entirely on her role as the Hilltop leader. Reports indicate that there are plans to bring the Maggie character back in the following season, should Cohan’s schedule permit it. So while she’ll clearly walk away from the group after the first six episodes of the upcoming season nine, don’t expect to see her meet her end via an enemy weapon or walker bite. She’ll likely leave very much alive.

With the eighth-season exit of cast member Chandler Riggs, who played Rick’s son in the series, Lincoln is now the last remaining cast member from the series premiere to have an active role in the show. According to a May report on Collider that initially broke the news on Lincoln’s departure, actor Norman Reedus is being courted as a potential replacement for Lincoln as the series lead due to the popularity of his character, Daryl Dixon.

The eighth season of The Walking Dead lived up to its “All Out War” tagline by pitting Rick, Maggie, Daryl, and the residents of several survivor communities against the forces of a group known as The Saviors, led by the brutal Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). The battle raged throughout most of the season, culminating in the final episode that pitted Rick against Negan, face to face, in a final brawl for the future of the survivors’ communities.

Along with potential changes in front of the camera, as well as the possibility of Lincoln earning some directing credits, season 9 of The Walking Dead will also have writer and co-executive producer Angela Kang move into the showrunner role on the series. Season 9 of The Walking Dead will premiere October 7.

Updated on September 26, 2018: Added details of Andrew Lincoln possibly directing and Lauren Cohan possibly returning after her departure.

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