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How can The Walking Dead continue on without its lead character and star? It’s a question many have asked with the imminent departure of Andrew Lincoln’s Rick Grimes. But one person is convinced the show will not miss a beat, and that person is Andrew Lincoln himself. In fact, Lincoln seems convinced he needed to leave for the show to continue to thrive.

“There’s something beautiful in the original DNA of the show in that it is all about change,” says Lincoln. “The show will live on and it will continue to be great.” That theme of change and evolution is key, says Lincoln, and his departure is merely one of those changes. “We knew it was happening when Lennie left for the other show and it was brilliant,” says Lincoln of Lennie James’ Morgan moving over to join companion series Fear the Walking Dead.

There have been other big changes as well, like Angela Kang assuming daily showrunning duties from Scott M. Gimple. “It’s exciting because there is a sense that there is a new vision for the show,” says Lincoln of all the big moves taking place both in front of and behind the camera. “I think Angela and everybody involved in it are performing out of their socks. To the best of their ability they’re putting it all out there. It’s a really exciting landscape that all of the characters are inhabiting. It’s the show I always thought we’d get to when I did the pilot — a pared down, much more dangerous and compromising and spare landscape.”

Lincoln says he does have regrets that he won’t be around to be a part of that new landscape moving forward, “but I got to taste a bit of it.” He also will be getting a taste in another capacity, as he recently shadowed a director on set with the plan to direct an episode in season 10. But Lincoln believes he would have stunted the story had he stuck around in a full-time capacity.

“What I don’t want to do is stay too long when I think the show will actually benefit from other people taking the reins and forging a new path,” he says. “And that’s what I think is happening now. It’s beautiful watching and seeing my dear friends who are incredible actors doing extraordinary things and turning it into a new show. And that is enormously gratifying.”

There is one big problem with that, however. “When they send me the scripts,” laughs Lincoln, “I do get a little upset because it sounds really cool.”

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

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The Walking Dead

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

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