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January 12, 2018 at 01:30 PM EST

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The original characters from season 1 of The Walking Dead are dropping like flies. Chandler Riggs is about to play Carl’s final episode in the Feb. 25 midseason premiere, and Lennie James’ Morgan is moving over to spin-off series Fear the Walking Dead at the end of season 8. That leaves only three actors remaining from the season 1 cast when the show picks back up to film season 9 in the spring (assuming they survive the rest of season 8, that is): Andrew Lincoln, Melissa McBride, and Norman Reedus.

Lincoln has been very open with EW regarding his thoughts about how long he wants to continue fighting the undead, even suggesting that the show could go on without him and Rick Grimes. “There’s only so many ways you can bend and stretch this and that,” Lincoln told us last summer while filming season 8. “I’m not saying that the show would ever finish, but I certainly think that there’s an opportunity for the show to change at some point, and I think it should.”

Gene Page/AMC

But there is one O.G. (as the original cast members often refer to themselves) who has no plans to leave anytime soon. “I love being on the show,” says Reedus when asked if he has contemplated departing. “I could do this until it ended. There’s part of me that really wants to bookend the show. I started the show and I want to end the show.” (That sound you hear is Reedus Nation collectively exhaling in relief.)

Reedus says he cherishes the fact that he’s part of a story where viewers have been able to see him age and evolve over time, and he wants to see that play out to the fullest. “It’s not like a movie where it wraps up in an hour and a half,” he says “People have seen me and Andy and Melissa grow over what will be a nine-year period when the show picks back up. You’ve seen my hair on my chin turning gray! I’ve never done a job like this where the fans are watching this character grow in real time. You very rarely get an opportunity to do that. It’s a real blessing to be able to be part of something that big and has that sort of longevity. I’m still loving it.”

And fans no doubt love hearing it.

The Walking Dead returns on Feb. 25 on AMC.

For more exclusive Walking Dead scoop, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly and follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

Related Content:
♦ The Walking Dead creator defends killing Carl
♦ The Walking Dead exclusive photos preview star’s departure
♦ The Walking Dead deals with another major loss: This week’s cover
♦ Fear the Walking Dead: Meet the new characters
♦ See the first crossover photos of Morgan on Fear the Walking Dead

AMC’s zombie thriller, based on the classic comic book serial created by Robert Kirkman.
type
TV Show
seasons
9
run date
10/31/10
Network
Available For Streaming On
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