He may have officially departed AMC’s “The Walking Dead ” series tonight, but actor Andrew Lincoln isn’t leaving behind his role of Rick Grimes just yet.
THR reports that the actor will reprise the role for three big-budget, feature-length telemovies based on the franchise. Former showrunner and content chief Scott M. Gimple is currently writing the first of the untitled series of films with production to kick off next year. Speaking with the trade, he says this is merely the beginning of AMC’s plans to expand its multi-billion dollar franchise:
“There is more story to tell and we’ll be telling it. The story of Rick will go on in films. Right now, we’re working on three but there’s flexibility in that… Over the next several years, we’re going to be doing specials, new series are quite a possibility, high-quality digital content and then some content that defies description at the moment. We’re going to dig into the past and see old characters. We’re going to introduce new characters and new situations.”
The original plan was to kill off Grimes this season, but story ideas that brewed between Lincoln and Gimple will allow them to continue to tell Rick’s story in another format. Lincoln has confirmed he’ll be in all three films which will initially deal with the time period between his ascent into the sky and the years later time jump featured at the end of Sunday’s episode. They will then go beyond that, and each will be relatively standalone as opposed to a connected trilogy.
Lincoln exited “The Walking Dead” in order to spend more time with his family in England. The current plan calls for him to be in production on each movie for two months with big breaks in between – a much more relaxed schedule than the annual nine months he has spent every year for much of the past decade filming the main series in Atlanta.
The movies will be AMC Studios Original Films and will likely air on AMC, though a partner is also expected to come onboard to share the costs. The aim, says AMC programming president David Madden, is for a: “large, big scope movie that will feel like a major motion picture” as opposed to merely an extended episode of the show. The movies will also NOT be used as back-door pilots for other potential spinoffs.
Madden adds: “There is a multiple-year plan that could include additional series, digital content and specials. We’re looking to broaden this into a universe where the movies that Andy will be in are the highest-profile things that we do”. Each film is expected to come in at two hours and sport a feature film-level budget – a far cry from the main series which cost a cheap $3 million per episode a few years ago and hasn’t really gone up since then.
Those involved are also looking beyond the films at other potential projects with the aim to diversify storytelling and airing formats, global locations, tone and characters. There’s also the likely return of fan-favorite characters no longer in the series with Gimple teasing: “I have one of those stories in progress right now. [That would] not only give us a chance to work with these wonderful people again but to answer questions about their characters.”
The current season is averaging a 4.0 in the demo and 9.4 million viewers.