"The Walking Dead" may soon be without its biggest star: Andrew Lincoln is reportedly leaving the show next season.

That's the word from Collider, which reports that Lincoln's exit is set for sometime in season nine. Though the site is coy on details of just how the actor is set to be written off (or likely killed off, though we don't know that for sure just yet), it does say that the star isn't expected to make it through the entire season, and will appear in only "half-a-dozen episodes."

News of a major character's departure isn't entirely shocking, since "The Walking Dead" has proven time and time again that seemingly no one is safe in the zombie apocalypse (or around Negan and Lucille), But Lincoln's rumored departure is different, and definitely jarring. His Sheriff Rick Grimes is unquestionably the face of the series, with the show centering around him from the opening shot of the pilot onward. Losing him would mean losing a key piece of the show's very essence.

But as with all long-running series, cast members like Lincoln, who's been there since day one, are bound to get a bit stir crazy playing the same role for so long. And fans are starting to tire of the show's nonsensical plot lines, so it stands to reason that its stars are, too.

Lincoln's costar, Lauren Cohan, may also be jumping ship soon, since her ABC pilot was picked up to series. She'll still be back as Maggie Greene for at least part of season nine, but we wouldn't be surprised if her stay is short-lived, too.

Collider also reports that AMC is trying to make a deal with Norman Reedus, who plays fan favorite Daryl Dixon, to take over Lincoln's leading man status, offering him a substantial pay bump. So at least one original protagonist will be sticking around. Based on how many viewers the show is hemorrhaging, though, there may not be many folks around to see it.

Stay tuned to see how this situation shakes out.

[via: Collider]