Now that Andrew Lincoln leaving The Walking Dead during season 9 has become official, the question becomes: How will the show replace him? According to star Danai Gurira, who plays Michonne, it can’t. “There’s no replacing him,” Gurira told EW Radio (SiriusXM, channel 105). “There’s no just getting over it.”
While all casts like to talk about being a family, the actors (along with crew) of The Walking Dead are uncommonly close, making the exit all that more emotional. Gurira notes that the cast having to say goodbye to Lincoln off-camera mirrors the survivors having to say farewell to Rick Grimes on-screen. “It is something that, of course, our characters are dealing with as we deal with it. So it’s kind of in very clear emotional synchronicity with our characters right now because the loss is felt by them and by us. But the beauty is, we’re family, and he created the TWD family with a few other folks. So we get to still have him as family, and that’s a beautiful thing.”
Like pretty much everyone else that has ever stepped on the Senoia, Georgia set of the show, Gurira is quick to credit Lincoln for setting the tone of an inclusive working environment. “Andy is a quintessential leader, says Gurira. “I believe, and I know I’m right, that he’s the best leading man on television. There’s something so beautiful about his form of leadership, and it does come from those first moments that you’re on the set. You are welcomed into the family and he is right there, present, loving, generous, kind, supportive. So you immediately feel that there’s someone, the leader, that wants you to succeed and is thrilled when you do. That can only make you better, and Andy can only teach you how to be better to others as well.”
While Lincoln — who has already wrapped filming — may no longer physically be on set, his presence lives on for everyone who still works on the show. “He’s left us with the example of how to carry on because he gave such a beautiful example himself,” says Gurira. “I couldn’t say enough amazing things about this man, quite honestly. I always say, ‘Was he hatched from an egg?’ Because you don’t meet enough people like him that often. It’s been a beautiful journey to have spent time with this man and to have learned from his example.”
The journey continues when The Walking Dead’s ninth season premieres Oct. 7 on AMC.