One of the biggest TV news stories of the summer swept the country when it leaked out The Walking Dead star Andrew Lincoln would be making his shocking departure from the AMC drama in Season 9. But while details about that exit are still under wraps, Lincoln has already revealed that he will indeed be returning to The Walking Dead. Only it won't be to reprise the role of Rick Grimes, but to serve as an episode director. In Lincoln's words:

I'm going back. I'm going back to shadow a director, and my intention is to direct next year.

How's that for dedication? It's still only been a few months since Andrew Lincoln wrapped up his final days on The Walking Dead set as the inimitable Rick Grimes -- at least, assuming he doesn't show up years down the road in flashback form like Jon Bernthal's Shane is -- but the actor is apparently already itching to find a way back into the franchise to make his mark in a completely different way. And we're down to see it happen, especially if it leads to a bunch of touching off-camera photos that show a normally dressed Lincoln standing with his in-costume former co-stars.

While he doesn't give specifics, it clearly sounds like Andrew Lincoln will be returning to The Walking Dead's Georgia set during the remainder of Season 9's production, for a more direct education in the the tricks of the trade from whatever director will be on duty. Lincoln definitely picked up some general skills across the first eight seasons of the show, and he aims to harness and enhance that directorial vision. Regardless of the kinds of projects he may want to tackle in the future, the best way for him get his feet wet is to stick with what's familiar by bringing a Walking Dead episode to life.

Plus, as Lincoln implied to EW, being outside of The Walking Dead universe long-term isn't the easiest thing in the world for him.

I can't be that far away because I can't bear it. [laughs] That's how much I am invested in the show and the continuation of the story.

Andrew Lincoln chose to leave The Walking Dead on a permanent basis in order to spend more time with his wife and children in England, since the show's schedule kept him here in the U.S. for such large spans of time each year. But maybe Lincoln started to get reverse-homesick after a while and wanted to return to his secondary life in some way.

Of course, it's also possible that former co-star Michael Cudlitz inspired Lincoln to get behind the camera, since Cudlitz also returned to The Walking Dead in Season 9 in order to helm the seventh episode, titled "Stradivarius." Or perhaps he was inspired by Fear the Walking Dead star Colman Domingo, who directed the recent episode "Weak" from that series. Or one of the many other TV actors out there showing off their directorial talents. Whatever the reasoning, we're hoping for the best.

The Walking Dead will return to AMC for Season 9 on Sunday, October 7, at 9:00 p.m. ET. To see what new and returning shows are on the way soon, head to our fall TV premiere schedule.

Watch: The Walking Dead Season 9 Trailer

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