There are plenty of big changes in store when "The Walking Dead" returns for its ninth season later this year, and among them is a bit of history for the series: The show is set to feature its first deaf character.

Entertainment Weekly reports that Actress Lauren Ridloff, who earned a Tony nomination this year for her starring role in the Broadway play "Children of a Lesser God," is joining the long-running zombie drama. Ridloff, who is deaf, will be playing a character named Connie in multiple episodes, and Connie will also be deaf.

Here's the character breakdown, according to EW:

Connie has been described as “a seasoned survivor deft at using her senses to read people, situations, and trouble. Her character is deaf and uses American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate.”

EW also has some SPOILERS from the comics that delve deeper into the Connie character. (Skip the following paragraph if you'd like to avoid those details.) Here's the intel, according to EW:

There is indeed a Connie in The Walking Dead comic, who arrives in issue 127, right at the point the TV adaptation has just reached, complete with a time-jump. In the comic, Connie is part of a new group of survivors led by a character named Magna that is brought back to live in Alexandria. It would make sense that Ridloff is playing the TV version of that Connie, although the comic version is not deaf.

Ridloff's addition to the cast comes at a crucial juncture for the series, which will be saying goodbye to two of its biggest stars sometime early in season nine: Andrew Lincoln (who's played the show's lead, Sheriff Rick Grimes, from the start) is departing, as is Lauren Cohan (who plays Maggie Greene Rhee), who landed a new job on upcoming ABC series "Whiskey Cavalier."

Season nine of "The Walking Dead" -- which will start with a significant time jump -- is slated to debut on AMC sometime in October.

[via: Entertainment Weekly]