AMC Andrew Lincoln Walking Dead

Change is coming to The Walking Dead, and it’s going to be a big one. At San Diego Comic-Con, creator Robert Kirkman addressed the rumored exit of star Andrew Lincoln, who plays stalwart leader Rick Grimes, revealing that his exit will change almost everything about the long-running AMC series.

At Comic-Con, in an interview with IMDb and host/director Kevin Smith, Kirkman — who created The Walking Dead for Image Comics in 2003 — said Lincoln’s exit from the series would fundamentally change the popular, long-running series from the original, also long-running comic books.

“It does make the difference between the comic and the show more pronounced,” Kirkman said at Comic-Con.

He added that Lincoln’s exit was a personal one for the British actor. “This is someone I have known for almost a decade, somebody that I love. He’s been sweating in Georgia away from his family for so long.”

As for whether or not Lincoln is actually leaving the influential zombie series, Kirkman replied: “It’s looking that way.”

Since the first episode, which aired on Halloween night in 2010, Lincoln has played former Georgia police officer Rick Grimes, who fought tooth and nail to reunite with his family, and fought off even greater threats to keep them alive. In the most recent eighth season, Rick led his community to war against a group of sadistic survivors, known as “The Saviors,” who were led by their charismatic leader Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan).

In the season finale, Rick’s group prevailed and defeated Negan, and are now keeping him alive to show him what true peace looks like in the apocalypse. But with Lincoln’s rumored exit, it seems peace may not last for long.

AMC’s The Walking Dead Season 9 will premiere in late 2018.

Photos via AMC