Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), the longtime surviving protagonist of AMC'S The Walking Dead, announced his departure from the show at Comic-Con this past summer, a move that was meant to allow fans to begin making peace with the loss of such an iconic character.
As stated by The Hollywood Reporter, it turns out, Lincoln, not only gave the fans plenty of notice; he also afforded the same courtesy to the creative minds behind the blockbuster as well, including Angela Kang, the longtime Walking Dead writer-turned-showrunner as of season nine.
> "It definitely wasn't something he sprung on us at the last minute," Kang tells The Hollywood Reporter about how Lincoln alerted the Walking Dead powers that be about his exit. "It was under discussion for a long time. He takes the job so seriously, is so lovely and wonderful to work with, and he wanted to make sure we had time to figure out our story and take care of that business."
According to Kang, Lincoln revealed his intentions well before production wrapped on the show's eighth season, the same year that saw the death of Carl Grimes, played since the first episode by Chandler Riggs.
One can only imagine the amount of creative stress applied to Kang and her team of writers, not to mention Kirkman, who introduced Rick Grimes to the world 15 years ago in the pages of Image Comics' The Walking Dead 1, first published in October of 2003.
> "For Robert, Rick is obviously such a big part of the comics," says Kang. "He would have loved for Rick to stay for the length of the series, as all of us would have. But we're dealing with human beings. We're dealing with flesh and blood. [Lincoln] needs to be with his young children and have more flexibility in his life. Robert definitely got it. He knew for years that this day would come."
Once Lincoln's departure became inevitable, the challenge turned to how to write the character out of the series.
In that regard, Kang said:
> "There were a lot of conversations about the ways in which we create a satisfying story for Rick. What are the important things we've seen from Rick in the past? What is his legacy? That was the big conversation we had early on. They took some time to discuss. From there, we jumped into breaking the season."
Season nine of The Walking Dead sees Rick and his allies building a better world, one that more closely resembles civilization before the apocalypse.
> "It's one of my favorite stories from the comics," says Kang. "It's one of the things I was most excited about when I was asked to take over this season of the show: the opportunity to tell that story."
As always, The Walking Dead will apply its standard remix approach to the Whisperer arc from the comic, taking key moments from the source material. It's a decision that sits well with Kirkman, the man who invented the Whisperers.
> "It's somewhat close to the comics, but it has its own differences as well," he tells THR. "It's the differences, to me, that really get me jazzed for [the show], because it puts a fresh coat of paint on it, and it makes it something new for me. It's not this old, boring thing that I did 10 years ago."
> "We're seeing Maggie [Lauren Cohan] struggle with leadership as well," she adds. "They're all finding that it's no longer a world where Rick is just the leader and they all do what he says. They all have their own opinions. They all have their own ways of going about things… Rick is gone, the world changes again for them."