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When picturing The Walking Dead's TV show, fans no doubt have a bunch of different thoughts that come to mind, but it's safe to assume that the image of Andrew Lincoln's Rick Grimes is a prominent one. But the actor himself apparently doesn't have a hard time thinking about The Walking Dead at a point when he's not involved anymore. It's not an issue of disinterest or fatigue, though, but rather an urge to see Rick's story conclude. In Lincoln's words:
I don't know about you guys, but I think it's impossible for me to envision The Walking Dead in any format without Rick and his beard in charge of post-apocalyptic survival. After all these years of the comic and TV show, I just don't know what that would look like. Sure, some of the Walking Dead video games don't have Rick in them, but it's not like those feature all the other characters without him. It's perhaps easy to conceive the story in the abstract without its woeful leader, but Andrew Lincoln feels still mostly necessary at this point.
That said, I do understand what Andrew Lincoln is talking about. There are only a handful of actors on The Walking Dead that have survived since those earliest days, so logic would dictate that some of those core characters would end up dying off before all is said and done. And since Carol is likely meant to stick around until the end, that would leave Rick, Carl, Morgan and Daryl. The latter's death would cause riots, and Carl's death would be...nice, but not likely. So we'll probably see Morgan go down next where those characters are concerned, and then...well, it seems like Rick would be next on the list.
In talking with EW about it all, Andrew Lincoln was asked what he thought about the torch for the Grimes legacy being passed on to Carl and having the show focus on the the teen in the future. And he sounds perfectly down with it.
It would be really interesting if that Old Rick flash-forward hinted at in the first Season 8 trailer was a first clue at Rick's reign coming to an end in The Walking Dead's nearish future. It would be a stark change from the comic book source material to kill Rick off before the story is complete -- at least in its current state -- but creator Robert Kirkman doesn't have an issue with it, saying that although Andrew Lincoln is such an iconic part of the series, the massive ensemble is strong enough to carry on without him, especially in the ever-expanding world at large. But Kirkman says it's not something we'll need to worry about "any time soon," so expect to see Rick living on well beyond the All Out War with Negan.