‘Walking Dead': Andrew Lincoln Says He Almost Left in Season 8

AMC star says he realized it wasn’t time to leave yet during Comic-Con last year

It turns out that “Walking Dead” fans are actually getting extra screen time with Rick Grimes.

When asked by Entertainment Weekly how long he has been planning his exit from the zombie drama, leading man Andrew Lincoln said that he’s been thinking about it since way back in Season 4, and that eight seasons sounded like a good number to end on.

“I had a conversation during season 4 with [executive producer] Scott Gimple about this,” he said.  “You know, we shared young families and there was a lot of synchronicity between the two of us that were two heads of a show that seemed to be getting bigger and bigger. We spoke about it and said, ‘There’s got to be a shape. We need a shape to work out if we get to season 5 then maybe we’ve got a couple more.’ There were all these ifs and buts and strategies. And I said, eight sounds like a good number.’ Eight seasons was certainly something. Last season was a shape that I had in my head and it was certainly something that Scott was possibly thinking about as well that was a completion of a certain chapter which could be called Rick’s falling.”

But Lincoln continued to say that by the time Season 8 actually rolled around, things were more “complicated.”

“I realized that rather than have the funeral, I had to prepare for the funeral and I had to make sure everybody was comfortable with the funeral arrangements. And I don’t think I was ready for the funeral! You know what I mean? I was like, I don’t think I’m ready to go yet!” he said. And the beloved actor isn’t saying goodbye forever: he’s been shadowing directors on-set and has hopes to direct in Season 10.

After Comic-Con in 2017, he told his wife he wasn’t ready to leave all of his friends: “I don’t know if I can do it yet. I don’t know if it’s time,” he remembers telling his wife.

“It was at Comic-Con that year that I made the decision that I couldn’t leave that year. I said to my wife, ‘I feel overwhelmed. I don’t think I’m ready. I can’t do it. I’ve got Norman, I’ve got Danai, I’ve got Jeffrey, I’ve got Melissa McBride, I’ve got Greg Nicotero — all these beautiful friends of mine and I don’t know if I can do it yet. I don’t know if it’s time.'” he said. “So that happened.”

But now, it is time.

“I have to do it,” he told EW. “I have to come home. There was a certain sense that I’ve been without a home for this time. And I think it is right.”

“The Walking Dead” Season 9 premieres Sunday, Oct. 7 on AMC.