AceShowbiz - "The Walking Dead" creator Robert Kirkman has confirmed Andrew Lincoln will be leaving the hit zombie show.
The British actor has portrayed lead character Rick Grimes for eight seasons, ever since the cult TV series debuted in 2010, and comic book writer Kirkman, who is behind the source material for the programme, has now verified rumours he's walking away.
"It's looking that way," Robert told The Hollywood Reporter in response to whether the upcoming ninth season of "The Walking Dead" will be Andrew's last. "It does make the differences between the comic and the show more pronounced, but at the end of the day, it's all about Andrew Lincoln. This is a human being.
"This is someone I have known for almost a decade, somebody that I love. He's been sweating (on set) in Georgia, away from his family, for so long."
The comic book creator's comments are the first from an executive behind the show confirming the departure rumours, and Kirkman insists fans will be delighted with the way Rick's character leaves, despite disappointment over his exit.
"He cares about the fans," Robert said of Andrew. "He cares about the show deeply. He wants to do something special on the way out. We have something amazing planned.
"I wouldn't want to spoil anything, but anybody who has been a fan of his journey, who loves Rick Grimes, who loves the world of 'The Walking Dead', you're going to want to see what we do."
Andrew and his "The Walking Dead" castmates will appear at the annual Comic-Con International festival in San Diego, California on Friday, July 20, where fans can bid goodbye to the star in person, although there is no word on whether cast and crew plan to address his impending departure at the event.
Lincoln's co-star Norman Reedus, who plays bow-slinging Darrell Pritchett, will reportedly take over as the show's leading man amid rumours suggesting he is negotiating a new $20 million (£15 million) contract with TV bosses.