Just about every element that has been announced for The Walking Dead Season 9 represents big changes, from the time jump(s) to the evolved communities. Two of the most important new wrinkles are Andrew Lincoln's impending exit and the introduction of comic book villain Alpha, as portrayed by the great Samantha Morton. CinemaBlend's Eric Eisenberg spoke with show producer Gale Anne Hurd at San Diego Comic-Con for her Amazon series Lore, and when he brought up Morton's TWD casting, Hurd seemingly confirmed that fans won't get to see Rick and Alpha square off in live-action. In her words:
At this point, Eric finished her trailed-off sentence by saying, "Rethinking it?" To which Gale Anne Hurd nodded and said, "Yeah, so." Which isn't to say that Andrew Lincoln was sitting there, actively regretting his decision to vacate The Walking Dead to stick around the U.K. and his family on a more regular basis. It was more about him considering the awesomeness of working with Samantha Morton, which is something plenty of actors would love to do. The point here, however, is that Lincoln can only have incidental regrets here if he didn't actually work with her at any point, meaning Alpha and Rick won't get to have any of their comic book moments brought to life.
Because obviously, if Andrew Lincoln wasn't aware until San Diego Comic-Con that Samantha Morton had been added to the show as Alpha, the show's first major female villain, then he clearly hadn't already filmed any Rick and Alpha conversation scenes. Since the Whisperers were shown in the trailer, we know that they'll be showing up in the first half of the season that Rick will be around for, but it's still unclear when or how Alpha's introduction will go down. It stands to reason that Rick's death may have something to do with the insane way the Whisperers made their mark in the comics, which wouldn't necessitate him meeting Alpha at any point.
While there hasn't been concrete confirmation that Andrew Lincoln has finished filming the five Season 9 episodes he's set to be in, it's generally thought that he wrapped his episodes earlier in July, making Comic-Con one of his last Walking Dead-related events while still part of the main cast. If that's the case, and no one in the cast was aware of Samantha Morton signing on until it was announced, then Lincoln would need to come back to the set to film further scenes to get Rick and Alpha on the screen at the same time. And while that's not an impossibility, it's not the most likely scenario.
So what does this mean? Well, it means that we'll probably see confrontations between more female leaders in Season 9, with Maggie or Michonne potentially having to take charge against Alpha (and later, Beta). Of course, Lauren Cohan is also only set to appear in a handful of episodes, thanks to her new ABC show Whiskey Cavalier, so she might not even be around much when Samantha Morton starts commanding attention. Maybe Daryl can step up at that point? Morton and Reedus would definitely make strangely intriguing scene-mates.
You can watch Gale Anne Hurd deliver her answer in the video below.