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The Real Reason Andrew Lincoln Wants To Return To The Walking Dead

Even before Game of Thrones became everyone's favorite killer of main characters, AMC's The Walking Dead was taking grim pleasure in unceremoniously dispatching beloved cast members. Sometimes, the horror-tinged series even killed its darlings twice – if the character in question was unlucky enough to have died via walker bite.

One character who lasted a remarkably long time in the post-apocalyptic wasteland was de facto leader and neo-cowboy Rick Grimes, played by Andrew Lincoln. Although he didn't always make popular choices, Rick learned from his mistakes and adjusted his attitude accordingly, personality traits that endeared him to viewers. As a result, Lincoln became one of the show's most recognizable stars.

When it was announced in 2018 that Lincoln was leaving The Walking Dead, fans were stunned — although not for long. Shortly after his last episode aired, it was revealed that not only did Rick survive what appeared to be a noble act of explosive self-sacrifice, but we would get to find out what happens next thanks to three already-in-development movies about the character. Since then, we've seen Walking Dead mastermind Scott Gimple tease Rick Grimes movie updates on a pretty regular basis. No one is happier about the imminent return than Rick Grimes himself, Andrew Lincoln.

Andrew Lincoln is eager to get back in the saddle

You'd think most people would be happy to leave behind a wasteland crawling — and occasionally running — with aggressive flesh-eating monsters (not to mention the occasional aggressive human). But nearly three years after leaving The Walking Dead, Andrew Lincoln is itching to get back to exactly this bleak world.

Speaking with CinemaBlend, Lincoln dropped the Z-word when he responded to a question about going back to the franchise via the movies, saying, "I want to get my cowboy boots on, and my steps-in, and rid the world of the zombie hordes ... I can't wait to get the script and get going." He added that his fellow survivors (actors) keep trying to convince him to return.

Apparently the change of heart has come with a change in circumstances. As Lincoln explained, "I [left The Walking Dead] largely because my kids were changing schools and I wanted to be home and parent and all that. My kids don't want me 'round anymore; they're too busy with their friends. I'm ready to go."

Andrew Lincoln struggled with leaving The Walking Dead, but has no regrets

When an actor leaves a long-running show they've been involved with since the start, it's often over a pay dispute, troubles on set, or because they want to explore new creative opportunities. See, for example, the real reason these NCIS actors left the show — or even the real reason these Walking Dead actors left. But Lincoln has always been open about the fact that leaving The Walking Dead was a difficult decision, and it came down to putting his family first.

As he alluded to in the interview with CinemaBlend, Lincoln chose to leave The Walking Dead because he felt that the show was taking him away from his children. Around the time his last episode aired, he told the Hollywood Reporter that it helped him to know that three movies following the character had already been greenlit. "It was getting harder for me to have longer absences because we couldn't move the kids as freely as we used to be able to. It's very difficult explaining to a 6-year-old boy why their father has to leave for three months. I wasn't willing to keep doing that," he said.

Fortunately, a few years later, Lincoln's enthusiasm for his character hasn't dimmed, and if anything, his children are the ones egging him on to return to Walking Dead world — meaning modern day Georgia, where the series is filmed. According to Digital Spy, at a virtual cast reunion in December 2020 Lincoln said: "Arthur — my 10-year-old son — won't let me take a job unless it's in Georgia now ... He goes, 'Take me back there!'" 

Luckily for Lincoln and other Rick fans, he's on his way.