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The Walking Dead's Andrew Lincoln exits series but will return in three spin-off movies

The Walking Dead

Story by Jack Foley

ANDREW Lincoln may have departed The Walking Dead – but the actor will reprise his iconic role as Rick Grimes in three stand-alone films as the creators look to expand the show’s universe.

British actor Lincoln has played Grimes for almost nine years, having emerged as the show’s central character for the way in which his sheriff has led the survivors of the zombie apocalypse through thick and thin.

But he appeared to have run out of lives in the fourth episode of season nine, which was shown last week, as his character appeared to be on the brink of death and facing a grisly fate at the hands of walkers.

However, in this week’s episode – which aired in the US on Sunday night – Rick was shown to have survived and was airlifted to safety in a mysterious helicopter that has appeared several times already in the show.

It was then announced that Lincoln, who quit the series in order to spend more time with his young family in England, will continue playing the role by starring in three spin-off films.

The movies, which are expected to begin production next year, will continue the story of the sheriff’s deputy.

Speaking on the after-show Talking Dead, Lincoln said: “It’s not the beginning of the end, it’s the end of the beginning. And I like the idea that we get to tell a bigger story, maybe with a sort of wider vista.

“I’ve always been interested in what’s going on out there, you know, whether or not there is contact with the wider world. I want to know the meta of it all. And I suppose to be able to kind of touch upon that in a contained story for me is a very exciting proposition… maybe it’s the start of a bigger story.”

The films will be written by The Walking Dead producer Scott Gimple.

He said: “There were story ideas brewing that, as the years went on, seemed very compatible with continuing to tell the Rick story in another format that would allow him time with his family.”

Lincoln’s involvement should be welcome news for both his fans and his family, especially given that the goal is to spend two months in production on each feature – which would be a far cry from the nine months a year Lincoln has spent in Atlanta for the time in which he has portrayed Grimes.

Commenting on how hard it had become to leave his family for such long periods, Lincoln told The Hollywood Reporter: “ It was getting harder for me to have longer absences because we couldn’t move the kids as freely as we used to be able to. It’s very difficult explaining to a six-year-old boy why their father has to leave for three months.

“I wasn’t willing to keep doing that. It’s not been easy to be like, “OK, brilliant, job done, clean my hands off and off I go back to domestic life in the countryside.” That’s not who I am.”