The trip to San Diego’s Comic-Con was an emotional one this year for the cast of The Walking Dead. That’s because series star Andrew Lincoln — with a little accidental push from comic creator Robert Kirkman — officially confirmed to the Hall H crowd that he was indeed leaving the show during the upcoming ninth season (which premieres Oct. 7 on AMC).

Lincoln also came on EW Radio — along with his castmates — to discuss his exit. While Danai Gurira, Norman Reedus, Lauren Cohan, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan paid tribute to their friend, Lincoln discussed his exit. “Let me clarify something,” Lincoln began. “Yes, it’s my last season on the TV show, The Walking Dead.” That statement mirrors other cryptic comments by the star that seem designed to either keep fans guessing or leave the door open to him possibly playing Rick Grimes in some other incarnation (video games, film, another spin-off series).

He then went on to talk about what it was like filming his final episodes, which have already wrapped. “Completing the show was like releasing air finally,” says Lincoln. “And it was very satisfying the last two episodes in particular. But doing a panel and having to talk to [thousands of] people in Hall H and then have all my friends hug me at the end? The s— got real, is the truth of the matter.”

As for why the star is leaving the biggest TV series in basic cable history, the reason is simple: family. Lincoln lives in England and The Walking Dead shoots for over half the year in Georgia, keeping him away from his wife and kids for prolonged stretches of time. “I have two young children, and I live in a different country, and they become less portable as they get older,” says the man who helped change the zombified face of television. “It was that simple. It was time for me to come home.”

Lincoln also discussed what we will see on screen in season 9 — which includes a time jump — before he departs, and it appears resources will indeed be scarce for the survivors. “The world is deteriorating,” he says. “Food is scarce, the Hilltop’s the main sort of food source, communications are breaking down, we don’t have gas anymore and we’re on horseback, and we’ve run out of bullets. So there is an enormous pressure on this group.”

That means communication and contributions between the communities are more important than ever as they attempt to rebuild society. “Rick Grimes has got a long game, and he knows that unless we trade, unless we look after each community, it’s going to fall apart,” teases Lincoln. “And that’s where we meet a fellow band of warriors just as it’s about to kick off. It’s a fragile peace.” And things will become a lot more fragile after the man who plays Rick is no longer around.

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

Episode Recaps

The Walking Dead

AMC's zombie thriller, based on the classic comic book serial created by Robert Kirkman.

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