The Walking Dead star Andrew Lincoln, who has been the face of AMC's zombie drama since its debut in 2010, is poised to exit after the upcoming ninth season, according to multiple reports.
Collider, who first broke the news, reports that Lincoln is expected to appear in only six episodes in the new season. ET has reached out to Lincoln's rep for comment.
The report also claims that the cable network has offered longtime star Norman Reedus, who plays hunter Daryl Dixon, "substantial compensation" for him to replace Lincoln as the series' new lead. AMC declined to comment to ET.
If Lincoln were to exit, his departure wouldn't be the first major cast shakeup for the series, which will already be adjusting to co-star Lauren Cohan's diminished availability for season nine, as she'll be transitioning into her new midseason ABC dramedy, Whiskey Cavalier. Earlier this year, The Walking Dead went away from its comic book source material, killing off Rick's one-eyed son, Carl (Chandler Riggs), after he was bitten by a walker.
Losing its central protagonist would be a big loss for The Walking Dead and would force the show to do a creative overhaul -- with new showrunner Angela Kang -- if it were to continue past the upcoming ninth season. While the show has lost its fair share of stars over the past eight seasons, saying goodbye to the main heartbeat of the series would be its toughest challenge yet.
Outgoing Walking Dead showrunner Scott M. Gimple told The Hollywood Reporter in April that season nine and beyond will be a different chapter in the show's history.
"We knew for a long time that this season was, in many ways, the end of a chapter of the show," Gimple said of season eight. "The differences that people will be seeing in season nine and beyond are going to be pronounced. It's going to be a very different show with characters handling very different issues, challenges and threats than we've seen before. These characters will be different in a lot of ways."