With AMC continuing to not officially confirm what has become one of the worst-kept secrets in major series casting change history, several media sites are reporting (with The Hollywood Reporter confirming) that Punisher star Jon Bernthal will reprise his role as Shane Walsh for The Walking Dead's ninth season.
Bernthal's appearance comes at a time when Andrew Lincoln (Rick Grimes) is expected to have a limited presence during the upcoming season, with the actor expected to exit the series at the end of the season. Norman Reedus's Daryl Dixon is expected to take over as lead on the AMC series when Lincoln exits.
Since AMC continues to play the "no comment" game about both Lincoln's departure and Bernthal's guest appearance, the nature of Shane's return is currently unknown. With Lincoln reportedly departing, many speculate that Bernthal is back to film flashback sequences similar to the ones during the season 8 finale. Something to keep in mind, though: both The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead have been known to experiment with "visions" and hallucinations, so that option is definitely still in play.
During his original run on The Walking Dead, Bernthal's Shane was killed during a confrontation with Rick, in which Shane attempted to murder his best friend and former partner. Shane returned as a walker, only to be put down for good by Rick's son, Carl (Chandler Riggs).
News of Lincoln's possible departure comes on the heels of news that Lauren Cohan (Maggie) would be returning to the Robert Kirkman-created series in a limited capacity. Though her contract was renewed by AMC in April 2018, there was heated speculation over how involved she would be with the series moving forward after ABC picked up her comedy-drama pilot Whiskey Cavalier to series. AMC would confirm that Cohan will be returning to the Hilltop for six of the show's eight fall half-season episodes; but no word yet on her involvement in the second half of the season.
Cohan herself revealed the news of her return when speaking to Entertainment Weekly at CinemaCon in Las Vegas last month, where she was promoting her upcoming movie Mile 22 with Mark Wahlberg. When asked about her status with the series, Cohan responded: "I'm going back. There's a lot more Maggie story to tell." Asked what fans can expect moving into the ninth season, the actress teased, "You know we're not allowed to tell you anything, but it's good."