Former Walking Dead Star Jon Bernthal Was Seen Near The Georgia Set, But Why?

Season 8 of The Walking Dead brought back a character that fans hadn't seen since the show's earliest episodes, and even though Morales got killed off fairly quickly, his return still sparked hopes that other long-gone characters could return in different ways. Such hopes and theories went into high gear over the weekend, as former star Jon Bernthal was seen hanging out with Walking Dead cast members in the Georgia area near where the show is produced. So does this mean we might see a Shane Walsh flashback accompanying Andrew Lincoln's final episodes? Or does it merely guarantee that Rick is going to die soon?

Several people were able to get photographic proof of Jon Bernthal's visit to Georgia, including the shot below, and it comes as Netflix's The Punisher is setting the pieces up for Season 2. So it's clear that the actor's presence isn't being viewed as a top-secret situation meant to be kept from everyone's eyes and ears. Otherwise, we might not have yet seen Bernthal and Andrew Lincoln getting cheeky with each other again.

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If AMC isn't trying to keep a tight lid on Jon Bernthal's trip, then that doesn't bode well for Shane Walsh's chances of showing up on The Walking Dead in Season 9. Such a major return would definitely fall into "gargantuan spoiler" territory, which the network rarely handles with anything other than an iron grip. So as fun as it would be to see Rick once again reminiscing about the comparatively carefree life he had before zombies took over the planet, it's hard to get overly optimistic about getting any future buddy cop scenes between him and Shane.

The much more likely explanation here is that Jon Bernthal returned to his former Walking Dead stomping grounds to pay respects to Andrew Lincoln's Rick Grimes as part of the traditional death dinners that the cast and crew members throw whenever a major character gets killed off. There weren't any big reports about Bernthal heading back for Chandler Riggs' death dinner for Carl's death, so it's possible that visit wasn't in the cards for him. But it makes all the sense in the world that Bernthal would make it down there to share amusing stories while sending Lincoln and Rick off in style.

Of course, it hasn't been fully confirmed that Rick is properly being killed off in Season 9, though Andrew Lincoln's highly publicized exit makes a doomed fate far more likely than any other outcome. The actor is reportedly only set to appear in six episodes through the season, which is the same number that co-star Lauren Cohan is contractually set for. But while Cohan's future as Maggie is still up in the air, with the potential for her to appear more should her new ABC series Whiskey Cavalier not win over viewers, Lincoln doesn't seem to have such varied extraction plans.

So what do you guys think? Could we be in store for some more Rick and Shane awkwardness when Season 9 rolls around, or is Jon Bernthal's presence in Georgia just about honoring Andrew Lincoln's history with the show? We'll hopefully find out soon, but until then, bookmark our summer premiere schedule to find all the non-zombie shows that fans are currently obsessing over.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.