The upcoming season of the zombie-apocalypse drama has long been rumored to be Lincoln's last, but no one from the show officially addressed the matter in public until Kirkman gave an interview to filmmaker and podcast host Kevin Smith Thursday.
The Hollywood Reporter said Smith asked if the buzz about the British actor's impending exit is true and Kirkman replied, "It's looking that way."
"It does make the differences between the comic and the show more pronounced," Kirkman said, referring to how Rick and his son Carl, who was also recently killed in the show, remain alive in the graphic novels. "But at the end of the day, it's all about Andrew Lincoln. This is a human being. This is someone I have known for almost a decade, somebody that I love. He's been sweating in Georgia, away from his family, for so long."
Lincoln and his fellow cast members are scheduled to appear at San Diego Comic-Con Friday, the same day the first, full-length Season 9 trailer is set for release. A teaser showing the various factions of survivors attempting to live together was posted on YouTube Thursday.
"He cares about the fans," Kirkman told Smith about Lincoln. "He cares about the show deeply. He wants to do something special on the way out. We have something amazing planned. I wouldn't want to spoil anything, but anybody who has been a fan of his journey, who loves Rick Grimes, who loves the world of The Walking Dead, you're going to want to see what we do."