According to Collider - there has been no confirmation from U.S. network AMC just yet - Andrew Lincoln, the man who plays Rick Grimes, will only appear in around six episodes of the next, ninth, season.
The Walking Dead season nine is in the works but according to sources, the Love Actually star will be exiting during the forthcoming run. In fact, he lives well beyond the events the show will likely adapt next season.
In terms of narrative, Rick's departure would fit in with his son Carl Grimes' (Chandler Riggs) death in season eight. This could leave to an entire overhaul of the series, especially with Danai Gurira (Michonne) embarking on a busy Marvel Cinematic Universe schedule.
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The ninth season of The Walking Dead is due to premiere in the U.S. in October. Lincoln's continued role on the show had never been in question until now.
To fill the void in the show's leading man status, AMC are rumoured to be offering an improved financial offer to long-running series star Norman Reedus. His character, the fan-favorite Daryl Dixon, is one of only two original cast members left on the show.
The Walking Dead has been mired in controversy as of late as it was said Chandler Riggs was sacked from the show, and in addition, the show's producers - including Robert Kirkman - are suing the AMC network for monies owed. Unlike in the past, AMC was slow to announce a season nine renewal as the series was negotiating a larger pact with now-former showrunner Scott M. Gimple. Whether that means the character is killed off or not remains to be seen.
All that said, AMC can probably expect a big boost in the ratings on the night Lincoln makes his exit.