[Ed. note: Spoilers for The Walking Dead ahead!]
Andrew Lincoln’s final episode of The Walking Dead TV series may have aired last Sunday night, but the actor isn’t moving on from the role of Rick Grimes, the show’s lead character throughout its first nine seasons, quite yet.
Just after the actor’s final episode of the show aired, AMC announced that Andrew Lincoln would be returning to his Walking Dead character for at least three made-for-TV movies. These movies will be feature-length, big-budget films but will air on AMC. While it’s unclear exactly when these films will debut, according to the Hollywood Reporter, production on the projects will start in 2019.
The decision to end the character’s involvement in the main series and have Rick’s story continue in movies, according to Walking Dead producer Scott M. Gimple, was ultimately made so that Lincoln could spend more time with his family.
”Rick Grimes is an amazing character and Andy has done an amazing performance. There were story ideas brewing that, as the years went on, seemed very compatible with continuing to tell the Rick story in another format that would allow him time with his family,” Gimple told the Hollywood Reporter.
But, it would appear that Lincoln is not the only person that this decision helps. Gimble himself was made AMC’s head of The Walking Dead’s universe expansion earlier this year. These films will be the first attempt at moving the franchise beyond the two series, The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead — the franchises’ first spin-off which debuted in 2015 and had a crossover with the flagship series earlier this year — that are currently airing on AMC.
While it’s still not exactly clear what stories these upcoming movies will tell, they’ll likely pick up just after the events of The Walking Dead’s fifth episode in season nine, which is the last to feature Rick — warning, here are the spoilers — who, after getting injured, blows himself and a heap of walkers up in a attempt to save his friends, barely clinging to life he’s found by Anne who airlifts him to an unknown location and out of the show. We also know that the stories themselves aren’t going to be much like the show. Rather than feeling like longer episodes of The Walking Dead, the movies will be self-contained features and will be more like major motion pictures, according to AMC programming president David Madden.
The Walking Dead is currently halfway through its ninth season which started in early October. Since debuting on AMC in 2010, the show has remained one of the most popular on television — though the viewership over the last several seasons has declined significantly — and transformed into a multibillion-dollar franchise.