Why Is Andrew Lincoln Leaving 'The Walking Dead'? Actor Says His 'Relationship With Mr. Grimes Is Far From Over'

Andrew Lincoln revealed why he's leaving The Walking Dead in an Entertainment Weekly interview posted Monday.

"It was time for me to come home" to England, the actor said, explaining his children "become less portable as they get older" on EW Radio. He already finished filming and added his "last two episodes in particular" were "very satisfying." The series films in Georgia.

Fans first starting reading news about Lincoln leaving the series in a report by Collider in May. Lincoln has played Rick Grimes since The Walking Dead premiered in 2010. He will appear in six episodes of Season 9, and it is unclear if his character will be killed off.

"My relationship with Mr. Grimes is far from over," Lincoln said at the show's panel at San Diego Comic-Con on July 20. "A large part of me will always be a machete-wielding, Stetson-wearing zombie-slaying sheriff's deputy from London, England." The actor also called Lennie James, who moved to the spinoff, Fear the Walking Dead, "a perfect example of leaving without dying" during a press conference at the convention, ComicBook.com reported July 23. Those comments suggest Rick may not necessarily die.

Lincoln addressed the "elephant in the room," as he called it, at the Comic-Con panel. "This will be my last season playing the part of Rick Grimes," he confirmed. "I love this show. It means everything to me. I love the people who make this show." He went on to say he wouldn't cry since he'd done that enough onscreen. "This has been the most extraordinary, amazing and beautiful experience of my career," he said.

Lincoln hadn't wanted the news of his departure out before it aired onscreen. "There is a certain sense of relief" in people knowing, he told EW during an interview at Comic-Con on July 21. "I still regret the fact that the story broke because I believe in the story and I think it would have been greater if it was not spoiled," he said.

Lincoln isn't the only main cast member leaving the series in Season 9. Lauren Cohan, who plays Maggie, too will only appear in six episodes of the first half of the season. "It's time for me to explore comedy and happier fare," she told Andy Cohen on Radio Andy Wednesday. It also sounds like her character may not be killed off either, as she added, "My Walking Dead story is open. It's not finished."

The Walking Dead Season 9 premieres Sunday, October 7 at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.