Andrew Lincoln confirmed at Comic-Con that he is indeed leaving The Walking Dead during the show’s upcoming ninth season, which premieres Oct. 7 on AMC. As distressing as that news may be to fans, it turns out it could have been a lot worse.

With Lincoln sitting next to him, Norman Reedus revealed to EW Radio (SiriusXM, channel 105) that the duo originally planned to leave the show together. “We made a pact,” said Reedus. “I think it was like season 3 or 4. We’re like, ‘If you leave, I leave. Right?’ And that was the thing.”

Naturally, this caused Lincoln’s ears to perk up. “Are you leaving?” inquired Lincoln “Is this an announcement? Is this breaking news?”

“Oh, hell no,” responded the man who still plays Daryl Dixon. But while Reedus may have broken his pact with his bromance partner, he still is mourning losing his best friend on set. “He was the first person I saw in the morning. As soon as we wrapped, he immediately called me in the car. We speak all the time. We spent every lunch break in my trailer. We shared a trailer for forever.”

BTS - Season 5 - Reedus Lincoln Laugh
Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Like costar Danai Gurira, Reedus also points to the lasting impact Lincoln has and will have on set, even after he is gone. “He set a precedent for us on this show,” Reedus explains. “He set the bar very high right from the beginning, and we’re always trying to keep it real. And he’s always in our heads while we’re trying to do that. He’s made me a better actor, a friend, a father, all the way down the line. He’s a very, very important person to me.”

While Reedus is sorry to see Lincoln go, he understands and supports the actor’s desire to return to England to spend more time with his family. “When he told me he was thinking about doing this, I get it. I have a son in New York, and I’m constantly bouncing back and forth all these nine years to go see him. And I get it. He’s got two beautiful children, a beautiful wife. His whole family’s awesome, and you can’t be mad at him for going. It’s very understandable, but I’m going to miss the hell out of him.”

That’s not to say the duo is no longer in constant communication. Says Reedus, “I still sneak him scripts,” to which Lincoln nods and adds, “It’s true.”

And it seems that Lincoln is still having an impact and contribution on screen, even after his departure. “I ask him what I should do in every scene,” notes Reedus. “And it’ll stay that way. He helps me all the time.”

For more Walking Dead scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.