The face of The Walking Dead is leaving the franchise.
Star Andrew Lincoln, who has played beleaguered former sheriff Rick Grimes since the show’s premiere, will exit the AMC zombie drama in its upcoming ninth season, sources confirm to The Hollywood Reporter. Meanwhile, co-star Norman Reedus, who plays Daryl, is in the midst of negotiating a rich new deal that will pay him more than $20 million as he will become the new No. 1 on the call sheet.
Sources say Lincoln will be phased out in season nine in a fashion similar to co-star Lauren Cohan, who will film only six episodes of the series. Cohan, who pays Maggie, opted to exit the highly rated AMC drama and booked the lead in ABC’s Whiskey Cavalier after her efforts to renegotiate a new deal to stay on The Walking Dead went south. After ABC picked up Whiskey Cavalier to series for a midseason bow, it closed the door on Cohan’s full-time return to the series — even if she had closed a new deal. AMC declined comment.