Here's why these actors left The Walking Dead (2022)

Eleven seasons, multiple spinoffs and webisodes later, The Walking Dead seems to be the show that never dies - despite the regular butchering of its characters.

It comes as no surprise, of course, given the challenges that survivors face on a daily basis, including an army of flesh-eating zombies, rival gangs, and the occasional cannibal to boot.

Over the years, this particular zombie apocalypse has claimed a number of fan favourites, and while some departures simply mark the end of a character arc, or they adhere to the format of Robert Kirkman's original comic series, some actors made the decision to leave on their own.

So, ahead of The Walking Dead's eleventh and final (!) season, we decided to compile a list of some of the actors who decided to depart the show and why.

Jeffrey DeMunn (Dale Horvath)

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DeMunn made his Walking Dead debut in the show's pilot episode and continued to to play the role of Dale Horvath for 15 more, until he was gruesomely disembowelled by a walker near the end of the second season.

The actor's reason for cutting his time on the show so short? His loyalty to the original showrunner, Frank Darabont, who was fired from the series when AMC was reportedly asking for smaller budgets and quicker shoots.

Given that he and Darabont had worked together on the films The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, The Majestic and The Mist and were old friends, DeMunn was "furious" at how his pal had been "pushed out", resulting in the actor departing the show.

"I spent a week not being able to take a full breath," he explained. "And then I realised, 'Oh, I can quit'. So I called them and said, 'It's a zombie show. Kill me. I don't want to do this any more'.

"It was an immense relief for me."

Steven Yeun (Glenn Rhee)

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Glenn Rhee was first portrayed by Steven Yeun in 2010, but the premiere episode of season seven began with Negan choosing which of Rick's crew members would perish as retribution for their attacks on his Saviours.

Glenn was one of the unfortunate characters to be killed by Lucille, Negan's bat, and in front of his expectant wife, no less.

Yeun has since opened up about why he left TWD, telling Variety that he wanted the chance to explore playing different characters.

"There wasn’t really much of a fight on my end," he said.

"I couldn’t be stuck servicing just a genial natured guy for the rest of my career. On the inside, I didn’t feel that way. On the inside, I can be angry, I can be vengeful. I can be all the other things, and I wanted to explore those things for myself."

Yeun went on to receive to an Oscar nomination for his role in Korean-drama Minari and, this year, he starred in Jordan Peel's Nope. So he's doing just fine.

Andrew Lincoln (Rick Grimes)

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Rick Grimes actor Andrew Lincoln notably left TWD in season nine when his character blew up a bridge to save his friends and family.

As initially shocking as it was, it was later revealed that Jadis/Anne (Pollyanna McIntosh) had actually saved Rick and they were both rescued and taken away in a CRM helicopter.

Speaking of his exit, Lincoln explained that being away from his family in London to film most of the year in Georgia had taken its toll.

"I have two young children, and I live in a different country, and they become less portable as they get older," he said. "It was that simple. It was time for me to come home."

Jon Bernthal (Shane Walsh)

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Bernthal's character, Shane Walsh, was the work partner and best friend of Rick Grimes. However, Shane was killed off in the penultimate episode of season two.

Speaking to Jake's Takes, Bernthal explained that he left The Walking Dead because he got "really, really busy", adding that he had three kids to look after.

He did, however, go on to reprise the role in two more episodes.

In season three episode eight, 'Made to Suffer', Rick mistook somebody else for Shane during a hallucination, while in season nine episode five 'What Comes After', he had a vision of Shane while seriously injured.

Tom Payne (Paul 'Jesus' Rovia)

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Tom Payne explained that he felt his exit from the show was timed right, admitting he was "kind of over" it by the time he left.

The actor's character, Paul "Jesus" Rovia, was controversially killed off in season nine of the show, but he later said that his storyline wasn't going to go much further anyway.

"Ultimately it came down to just happiness in my job, and I was just like, 'Well, I've done this for three years,' and that was the longest I've ever done any acting job," Payne told ComicBook.com's Talking Shop.

"And I had kind of done everything that I wanted to do on the show, and I didn't really see the point in hanging around and just waiting for something to happen.

"We'd done some fight stuff which was really cool, but it didn't seem like it was really going to go — his storyline wasn't going to develop much."

He then laughed: "And everyone is like jockeying for position on that show and waiting for their time to shine, and I was just kind of over it, really."

Chad Coleman (Tyrese Williams)

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Chad Coleman's exit from the series ultimately came down to Negan's (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) entry storyline.

While Glenn and Abraham were eventually revealed to be Negan's victims, viewers complained that the 'Who did Negan murder with his bat?' plot was overly drawn out and hyped up.

Coleman, who had been playing Tyreese since season three, admitted that he had "enough" of the show after the storyline, suggesting that it took things to the extremes character-wise.

"After Glenn and Abraham, you know, Negan smashed their heads in that way, it was just like, 'That's enough for me. Thanks guys. Take care. All the best,'" he told Popcorn Talk.

Chandler Riggs (Carl Grimes)

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Carl Grimes made his debut in The Walking Dead's pilot episode and met his demise in season eight after being bitten by a walker. Considering he was just a kid, his death was one of the show's most controversial.

Later speaking to The Hollywood Reporter about his departure, actor Chandler Riggs shut down rumours that he had left the show to focus on his education, explaining that the decision to leave was not his.

"I’m taking a gap year right now to focus on acting for a while," he said. "Leaving Walking Dead wasn’t my decision. It was all story-related. It made sense story-wise for it to happen for Rick and Michonne and all the other characters."

A year later, Riggs admitted that leaving "sucked" at the time – but added that he was "really happy with how it turned out".

"It wasn't just Carl dying. It was also me leaving the show and kind of moving on to other things," he shared at San Jose Fan Fest.

Danai Gurira (Michonne Grimes)

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Gene Page/AMC

In season 10 episode 13, viewers bid farewell to Danai Gurira's Michonne Grimes, who left her friends and family to search for evidence that her later husband Rick was still alive.

Since leaving The Walking Dead, Gurira has branched off to success in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Okoye in both Black Panther and the Avengers films.

It was opportunities such as those that Gurira mentioned as the reason for wanting to pursue new pastures away from The Walking Dead series.

"The connection between us never ends and that's what keeps me going with the decision I made," she assured fans. "It was a very difficult one, and it's not connected to my heart. My heart stays right here. It was about a calling, and an essence, and other things I feel called to."

Sonequa Martin-Green (Sasha Williams)

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Gene PageAMC

Contrary to popular belief, Sonequa Martin-Green did not leave The Walking Dead because of her new role in Star Trek: Discovery.

The actress's character, Sasha, was the major casualty of Walking Dead's season seven finale as she chose to turn herself into a walker to save Rick and the gang.

Sasha's demise came after Martin-Green had been confirmed for Star Trek, leading viewers to assume the actress had left the show to pursue her new role.

However, Martin-Green later cleared things up and explained her Star Trek talks came after Sasha's fate had been decided, which was also no choice of her own.

"It couldn't have worked out more perfectly, because what was happening on Walking Dead was already underway," she told Entertainment Weekly.

"And then as we were going into the very end of the season, the very end of our shoot for the season — that's when the opportunity for Star Trek came. And so I know some people might think that I left Walking Dead to do Star Trek, but it did not happen that way."

Lennie James (Morgan Jones)

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Ryan Green/AMC

Though Lennie James left The Walking Dead in season eight, he didn't leave the zombie-ridden universe entirely.

Instead, the actor made the decision to cross over into one of the franchises many spinoffs, Fear The Walking Dead. The move made Morgan Jones the first character to cross over between shows.

In a later interview, James said he wished he had waited until season nine to leave because he would have "jumped" at the chance to collaborate with actors Ryan Hurst and Samantha Morton, who played Alpha and Beta, respectively.

"They're two actors I greatly admire and now regret I didn't hang around longer so I could have done some work with them," he said.

The Walking Dead season 11 airs on AMC in the US and STAR on Disney+ in the UK.

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