The Walking Dead season 9 starts next weekend, meaning the final episodes featuring Andrew Lincoln's Rick Grimes are beginning. It's an emotional moment for fans, as well as Lincoln's co-stars, some of whom have been working with him for almost a decade.
Lincoln confirmed over the summer that he's leaving The Walking Dead after the first half of season nine.
"This will be my last season playing the part of Rick Grimes," Lincoln said at San Diego Comic-Con in July. "I love this show, it means everything to me. I love the people that make this show. I am particularly fond of the people that watch this show. This has been the most extraordinary, amazing and beautiful experience of my career, made possible largely by you guys. In this room and rooms across the world...What I wanted to say is my relationship with Mr. Grimes is far from over, and some part of me will always be machete-wielding sheriff's deputy from London, England. This will continue to be an ensemble show."
Lincoln recently said he does plan to return to the series as a director. He will be the third actor in the franchise to direct an episode, after Colman Domingo directed an episode of Fear The Walking Dead, and Michael Cudlitz directs episode seven of TWD season nine.
Before The Walking Dead season nine premieres on Sunday, Oct. 7 at 9 p.m. ET on AMC, scroll on for a look at how members of the cast said goodbye to Lincoln.
Photo credit: Jerod Harris/Getty Images
Jon Bernthal, who played Shane, Rick's longtime best friend during the early years of TWD, penned a long tribute to Lincoln for Entertainment Weekly. Bernthal will return for a flashback in season 9.
"I love Andy. I can't think of another actor in my life that has had more of an impact on me, and that is more important to me. He is fiercely dedicated, but also unbelievably available and kind," Bernthal wrote in part. "I think the thing about Andy that strikes me the most is, often you get one of those or the other. Often you get people that are so unbelievably focused and encompassed by their work that they're almost like a marvel to look at. But the thing is that they remain sort of closed off, and part of their process requires an unbelievable amount of self reflection and almost a wall around them. Andy's really the only guy I've ever worked with who has that amount of dedication and that amount of commitment, but remains completely open and completely available for anybody. I think when it comes down to it, it's just an ultimate love for the project, a love for the work, and a love for the community of people that make the work."prevnext
Chandler Riggs, who played Rick's son Carl, also wrote an essay for EW about working with his "TV dad." He said he hopes to work with Lincoln again and is disappointed he will not be in the episode Lincoln directs.
"When I found out that he was leaving the show, I had mixed emotions," Riggs wrote. "As a fan, I was sad that to hear that he would be leaving the show, but as his "TV son" and his friend, I am so excited for him. Knowing that he's going to have so many more opportunities to do what he loves is amazing. He has been telling me for years about all these amazing ideas and projects that he wants to work on, but was never able to because of the show — and now he has the opportunity to do them. I am so excited to see where his career goes from here, and I can't wait to support him in everything that he does."prevnext
Norman Reedus has played Daryl Dixon on the show since season one. When Lincoln leaves, he will be the sole longest-tenured actor left on the show.
In an interview with ComicBook.com this month, Reedus said he was the first to know Lincoln was leaving. He was also disappointed, because they made a deal where they would not leave without each other.
"I was the first to know. I knew before it was even brought up. You know, I mean that dude's kind of been my BFF forever. I talk to him in the morning before work," Reedus explained. "I talk to him at lunch. I talk to him as soon as we wrap. Like, I'm at his house, he's at my house. We made a pact early on like 'If you leave, I leave. Don't leave without me.' Especially during a time when like people were dropping like flies all of the sudden! He told me like ages in advance and, of course, I tried to talk him out of it and, 'Move your family to New York! I'm in New York, you know it's an hour and a half!' I did all of the tricks but I understood why he left, you know, I get it. I totally get it. He had two kids and you live a million miles away."prevnext
"He's got to have a life as well, and he has children. I'll work with him again. He'll direct. It will be great," Alanna Masterson, who plays Tara, told Us Weekly at the red carpet season premiere event.
"Andy's daughter and my daughter are really close. They are good friends. That's what I will miss a lot. When people leave, you become friends with their families and their children and so I'll miss that."prevnext
Avi Nash joined The Walking Dead last season as Siddiq. During his short time on the show, Nash got to know Lincoln and called him a "legend" who will be honored on the show.
"I was struggling a bit with the scene, but he is a great player and very compassionate," Nash told Us Weekly. "He's very giving. It was a very difficult and emotional scene to tell him how his son died but he was 120 percent there for me and we just played. That's all you hope for as an actor."prevnext
Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Jeffrey Dean Morgan's Negan might be Rick's enemy on The Walking Dead, but it is clear that Lincoln and Morgan have built an off-screen rapport as friends. He told Us Weekly he will miss his friend on the set.
"I love him and I hate that he is leaving. It's been hard. It's been hard every day that he's not there showing up on set. He's not only an amazing actor, he's one of my best friends as well. He means a lot to all of us. So it's just got a different feel without him. I think with him leaving, the story line has propelled the story in a way that is really special," Morgan said.prevnext
Sarah Wayne Callies
Sarah Wayne Callies played Rick's wife Lori during the early seasons of The Walking Dead. In her EW essay, she recalled how Lincoln did not like being at the center of attention. He taught her what it means to "not be a star," she wrote.
"You did teach me — and probably lots of us on the show – something, though: what it means to not be a star," Callies recalled. "To be the first one to set, the hardest worker, to never complain. To give your best work off-camera for someone else. It brings me back to the yearbook schmaltz: thanks for making me a better person. You're a s—ty star, brother. But one hell of an actor and an even better man."prevnext
Danai Gurira plays Michonne, who became Rick's lover and his co-leader. During the season 9 red carpet premiere, she said Lincoln was "so loving and supportive" and "the quintessential leader."
"He wants you to succeed, and he's happy for you when you do. He makes you a better actor, and teaches you to be better to others. His form of leadership makes you feel immediately part of the family. I'm going to miss his generosity, his presence, and his energy. It's been a beautiful journey, and an honor to work with Andy Lincoln," Gurira said.prevnext
"I learned quite a bit during my seven years on that show with him," Yeun wrote. "Sometimes it was direct, like him taking the time to work through a scene on our off days with me. Other times it was passive, just me just looking up to him, asking myself if I could ever do that; if I could be so resolute in the face of enormous pressure."prevnext
"In what has turned out to be an experience that I think a lot of us share, when I first started on the show, Andy called me on my way home from my first day of work. He let me know he was there for me, told me that we are all in this together, and reassured me that he was at the other end of the phone and available to talk at any time," she wrote.prev