THE WALKING DEAD: 8 Actors Who Could Take Over As Rick Grimes

It has been announced that Andrew Lincoln is planning to leave The Walking Dead during the ninth season. Along with Norman Reedus, Lincoln is the longest servicing member of the cast, and most audiences know the Englishman as Rick Grimes.

The Walking Dead is a show that has no problem killing off characters: Glenn, Carl, Hershel, and Sasha have all bitten the dust, and it wouldn’t be surprising if Rick has the same fate. However, Rick is a special case because the show and the comics have centered around him and may want to continue focusing on the character. So let us consider some actors who could replace Lincoln as Rick.

Bobby Cannavale

Kicking off this list is New Jersey native Bobby Cannavale, an actor with a long and respected career. Cannavale is a character actor who has had played various characters and won and been nominated for numerous awards.

Cannavale is best known for his role as Gyp Rosetti, the main antagonist of the third season of Boardwalk Empire which earned him a Primetime Emmy Award for Supporting Actor in a Drama Series. As Gyp, Cannavale was an unusually violent and sadistic gangster who tried to muscle into the bootlegging trade and was a sexual deviant. One of his most horrendous acts was injecting Angela Darmody with heroin, turning her into a drug addict.

Cannavale has shown range throughout his career, and he would be an excellent replacement for Lincoln.

Sharlto Copley

Sharlto Copley was an acting late bloomer, coming to prominence thanks to his role in District 9. He quickly appeared in numerous Hollywood movie afterward like Oldboy and Maleficent. His best work has been with Neil Blomkamp, stealing the show as a violent and sadistic villain in Elysium and his sympathetic role as Chappie the robot.

Outside of Blomkamp’s films, Copley’s career has been hit and miss. He was the best feature of 2010’s The A-Team as “Howling Mad” Murdock, being humorous and showing he could do an American accent. But he has starred in lesser-known films and was awful as the villain in the 2013 remake of Oldboy.

A stint on TV could help Copley get some more mainstream recognition. He had a go on TV, sort of, in 2015 with the PlayStation Network adaptation of Powers, although the show only lasted 20 episodes.

Travis Fimmel

Australian actor Travis Fimmel is the youngest actor to make it on the list being Lincoln’s junior by six years. However, Fimmel looks older and considering how long Judith has been a baby in the show then it’s clear time moves more slowly in The Walking Dead universe.

Fimmel is most famous for playing Ragnar Lothbrok in the History Channel’s series Vikings. Fimmel was a charismatic presence in the historical drama, so it wouldn’t be an issue for him to lead the survivors of Alexandria. Plus Fimmel has no problem growing a bread. Vikings also matched The Walking Dead for blood-letting and Fimmel has plenty of experience handling weapons.

Since his character was killed off in Vikings Fimmel has focused on his film career, starring in Warcraft (a film franchise that’s going nowhere) and the drama Lean on Pete, so he is available for a more prominent role.

Ben Mendelsohn

Ben Mendelsohn is a respected character actor from Australia and often has had supporting roles in major Hollywood films. Audiences will properly recognize him as John Daggett and Orson Krennic in The Dark Knight Rises and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Yet there is more to Mendelsohn then appearing in blockbusters, having a long career in indie films in the US, UK, and Australia. He has won awards for his roles in the Aussie gangster film Animal Kingdom, and the British prison drama Starred Up.

Mendelsohn has played menacing, scummy and humorous characters throughout his career and in the case of 2012’s Killing Them Softly did all three, stealing the show. He would be an excellent replacement for Lincoln, and the Aussie deserves a significant mainstream role.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers

Irishman Jonathan Rhys Meyers has been acting since the 1990s and was seen as a rising star, appearing in Bend It Like Beckham, Mission Impossible III and From Paris with Love. Yet he focused on TV, leading Showtime’s The Tudors for three seasons, played Dracula for NBC/Sky Living and most recently was the warrior-bishop Heahmund in Vikings. Meyers is a youthful looking actor who would contrast with Lincoln more ragged looks yet if the span of time is slower in The Walking Dead then someone with a more youthful look would be fitting to play Rick. Meyers would also be able to show off his action credentials and his abilities as a leader. He could transfer some of his characteristics from Heahmund to Rick, as a brave fighter and a zealot.

Alexander Skarsgård

Alexander Skarsgård, son of Stellan, was an actor set for big things: he led two HBO shows, Generation Kill, and True Blood. However, his film career has yet to take off: The Legend of Tarzan failed to launch a franchise, he was killed off in the first 30 minutes of Battleship and Mute was mauled by critics. His best films tend to be his indie offerings. This is a shame because Skarsgård is a talented actor and because of his experience playing military and law enforcement figures he could easily handle the action sequences and act as the leader of Alexandra. The Walking Dead could give his career a boost.

David Tennant

David Tennant is an actor that does not need an introduction: he is known as the Tenth Doctor and the Purple Man in Jessica Jones. Tennant is a classically trained actor who has played many Shakespearian roles for the Royal Shakespeare Company and is a force on British TV, leading shows like Broadchurch.

Tennant is no stranger to genre films and TV – besides his roles in Doctor Who and Jessica Jones he was a scene stealer as a magician/vampire expert in 2011’s Fright Night. Tennant also has worked as a voice actor, playing Scrooge McDuck in the DuckTales reboot and appeared in 15 episodes of Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon.

Tennant would have no problem exploring the darker, more tortured aspects of Rick and he would be able to play a character pushed to his limited, seeing some of the worst incidents imaginable. The biggest issue for Tennant would be the Southern American accent because he has mostly played Scottish and English characters.

Vince Vaughn

Last but not certainly least is Vince Vaughn. Vaughn is best known for being a comedic star in hits like DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story and Wedding Crashers and this may make you wonder why he be considered for the role of Rick Grimes. Well before The Walking Dead, Andrew Lincoln was famous for appearing in the Channel 4 sitcom Teachers and wooing Keira Knightley in Love Actually. Recently, Vaughn has focused on more dramatic roles: he did his best R Lee Emery impression as Sgt. Howell in Hacksaw Ridge, starred in the second season of True Detective and most recently wowed critics in the prison movie Brawl in Cell Block 99 which is quickly becoming a cult film. Vaughn is no stranger to darker and more serious roles either, like playing a mercenary in The Lost World: Jurassic Park, and Norman Bates in the remake of Psycho. Leading a major TV show like The Walking Dead would complete his comeback after a string of duds.

Who would you like to see as the next Rick Grimes? Comment below.

Kieran Freemantle
Kieran Freemantle
I am a film critic/writer based in the UK, writing for Entertainment Fuse, Rock n Reel Reviews, UK Film Review and Meniscus Sunrise. I have worked on film shoots. I support West Ham and Bath Rugby. Follow me on Twitter @FreemantleUK.