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Greg Nicotero says The Walking Dead won't suffer due to Rick Grimes' exit

After playing Rick Grimes on AMC's The Walking Dead since the very beginning, this coming Sunday will mark Andrew Lincoln's departure from the long-running series. Over the course of the past eight seasons, we've seen plenty of characters come and go, but Rick Grimes has always managed to persevere, which makes his upcoming exit a tough pill to swallow.

While speaking with Entertainment Weekly, The Walking Dead's Greg Nicotero said that they're perfectly aware of how audiences may react to the series now that Rick Grimes will no longer be a part of it. "People have a gut reaction," Nicotero said. "And their gut reaction is, 'I don’t know how I feel about that. I don’t know if I want to watch the show if Rick Grimes isn’t on it anymore.'" Despite that, Nicotero is 100% confident that The Walking Dead won't suffer as a result of Andrew Lincoln's exit.

The thing I can really, honestly say with 100 percent confidence is the show will not suffer because of the loss of Rick Grimes. He’s a great character, he’s an amazing actor, but I just I feel that as this show evolves, I just really don’t want people to feel that this departure signals the end of the show, because we have a tremendous amount of story to tell. Rick has been instrumental in telling a good portion of that story, but let’s be honest: We’ve had a lot of story that was told by Carol, we had a lot of story that was told by Glenn and Maggie, we had a lot of story that was told by Daryl, and Shane, and Lori. I feel very strongly that we still have a tremendous amount of story to tell with the great characters that we still have.

Critical reception to the past several seasons of The Walking Dead have slid in comparison to earlier seasons, but the current ninth season has been serving as something of a revival for the series, with many critics saying that it's a marked improvement. Will they be able to keep it up following Rick Grimes' departure? Who knows, but they'd better hope so if AMC really does want to keep the franchise going for decades to come. As for Greg Nicotero, he's certainly going to miss Andrew Lincoln. "I’ve been on the show since day one. Andy and I have been tremendous collaborators, and great, great friends over the last couple years. We kind of grew into who we are. Andy grew into Rick Grimes, and I sort of grew into the director that I am, and we did it together," Nicotero said. "It still really hasn’t hit me, to be honest. There were a couple of days on set when we would just be looking at each other and there was so much that neither of us wanted to say because there’s so much history between us. I love the guy, I respect him, and I know exactly why he’s doing what he’s doing." Nicotero may be seeing his friend on set again sooner than he thinks, as Andrew Lincoln has said that he plans on returning to direct an episode next season.

The Walking Dead is currently airing on Sundays on AMC.

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