Rick Grimes may be leaving The Walking Dead, but his story is far from over. Although Sunday marked Andrew Lincoln's final episode of the hit post-apocalyptic AMC series, he will reprise the character of Rick Grimes in a trilogy of TV movies for the network, AMC announced.
The idea to continue Rick's story in films wasn't always the plan, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Due to Lincoln's desire to spend more time with his family in England, the actor and former showrunner Scott Gimple had a conversation during Season 4 in which they came to the conclusion to kill off Rick in Season 8. However, Lincoln later realized that he wasn't ready to say goodbye to Rick and they began brainstorming ways for his storyline to continue outside the flagship series.
"There were many iterations of the story [of Rick's final episode] and it became rather late last year that this [came together] because it was a pipe dream," Lincoln told THR. "I said, 'Wouldn't it be nice to do this.' It's never been done by a cable TV channel and I didn't think it would come to much. Quite astonishingly, at the end of last year they said 'let's go for it.' This organically grew out from last year. There were versions [of the episode] that Rick wasn't going to make it. But thankfully it went this way!"
As of now, the plan is for each of the films to air on AMC, so don't get your hopes up about a full theatrical release. However, that doesn't mean that the films will essentially be the same as The Walking Dead episodes that the network produces. Each film will be given a feature film budget and be feature length, with anticipated runtimes of two hours. The plan is for Lincoln to work on each movie for two months, which will allow him to spend more time with his family than the show did.
In Lincoln's final episode of The Walking Dead, Rick Grimes was left wounded and flying away in a helicopter with Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh) toward an unknown destination. The first of the three films will resolve that cliffhanger and explore what Gimple calls the "vast mythology" of a still-mysterious community who collects "A" or "B" people. The Gimple-penned film is expected to begin production in early 2019. Where the movie will be shot, the air date, the rest of the cast and other details are still TBD.
The films are only the first step in the expansion of The Walking Dead franchise. After being promoted from showrunner to the new position of chief content officer, Gimple began developing numerous projects to make The Walking Dead into a Star Trek-style multi-platform franchise. As part of Gimple's multi-year plan for The Walking Dead universe, there are other projects currently in development, including additional films, specials, series, digital content and more. Some of the stories will relate to The Walking Dead as fans know it while others will be standalone stories that introduce new characters and locations. According to THR, "Gimple's vision stretches beyond that and includes introducing content with brand new characters, revisiting old fan-favorite and obscure ones and, maybe, spinning off others in shows that could run anywhere from 16-episode seasons to short-order miniseries."
The show's other actors are starting to prepare for the big future, too. THR reports that Norman Reedus and Melissa McBride, who play fan-favorite characters Daryl and Carol, have signed lucrative new deals that would allow them to "move freely" throughout the universe, setting them up for their own spin-offs, crossovers or whatever Scott Gimple comes up with for them. Danai Gurira, who is now the second-billed actor on the show behind Reedus and whose profile has raised thanks to Black Panther, is reportedly negotiating a similar deal.
More will be revealed at a later date, but the expansion of The Walking Dead world is only just beginning.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.