A Conversation with The Walking Dead’s Lauren Cohan

Last Sunday’s episode of The Walking Dead had to be one of the best hours of television this year, and a big part of it was due to a fantastic performance by Lauren Cohan as Maggie Greene. You can just imagine how excited I was to have an opportunity to chat with Lauren about this episode and her experience on the series so far! Here is our conversation, complete with the good (Maggie and Glenn’s relationship), the bad (having to say goodbye to a character and a beloved co-star plus more death before the midseason finale), and the disgusting (Zombie kills can be Ghostbuster levels of a gooey mess).

Maggie has to be my favourite character that you’ve played so far. Actually, with everything that happened in that last episode, I was so worried that Maggie might not make it that I really wasn’t too concerned about Lori until close to the end.

It was pretty psychologically deep, that whole thing for me and Chandler (Carl). You were right to be concerned.

I can’t even imagine what it must have been like to film, especially knowing that it was one of Sarah (Wayne Callies)’ final scenes on the show.

That emotion all wrapped up in there … I felt that when I was saying sorry, it was because it was such a hard way to go, and a hard thing for Carl to go through. We are such a family unit and (Sarah’s) the matriarch of the show. She’s such a brilliant actress and such a smart, amazing woman. It was not easy.

Something that I’ve been thinking about since the last episode is now that Lori – the matriarch of the group – is gone, does that mean that Maggie will have to step into more of a motherly role?

It’s interesting. I always see Maggie as fundamentally a caretaker and I think we’ve seen that in Season 2, and we see that in Season 3 with Hershel and kind of becoming the “mother” of the Greene family in a weird way, but I think something important in this situation is that if things were different, she might become the matriarch, but we’re kind of limited on people who can be active and out in the field, and Maggie’s definitely one of those people that has a lot of strength in that regard. So, that matriarchal role is going to be shared, because it’s important for Maggie to stay out there protecting the group and running errands – I love that running errands is not the same in this world. It’ll be a nice surprise actually how things go with the baby.

I’m excited to see how that all plays out. Now, I’ve always seen Maggie and Glenn and their relationship as kind of the hope amongst the group, that even under these circumstances, that love is still possible, and that these people could potentially be the future. They could bring us the future of humanity. What Maggie went through with Lori and Carl, will that affect Maggie’s relationship with Glenn?

Yeah, you’re going to see – and this is a really big year for Maggie and Glenn – big changes for them. You’re right about the hope thing. It’s a theme that the writers talk about, too. If everything’s all right with Maggie and Glenn, that everything’s OK with the world. So you have kind of a necessary tension when there is any sort of difficulty between that couple. But what I think is interesting about them is that you saw a lot of fight between Rick and Lori, and where you saw a lot of fight there, you see a lot of communication and coming together with Maggie and Glenn. I really love this couple. I love the way the symbiosis that they have, how they fill in each other’s weaknesses. It’s such a gift to be able to tell that story in this world. You also see the vulnerability that loving each other like that can bring. What’s cool is that maybe the cure isn’t the antivirus, maybe the cure is something that we learn through them. And the love is not just coming from Maggie and Glenn, you’re seeing relationships develop all through this group and in the people that we’ll come to meet in the series. This season – and I actually have goosebumps now – I cannot give any spoilers, but it touches you so deeply. It’s got so much heart.

The Glenn and Maggie pairing is a hit with the fans as well. I was at the C2E2 panel in Chicago last spring, and the crowd that came out was just amazing. I’m not sure exactly to what extent you’re engaged with the fandom, but what kind of feedback have you received regarding your character, especially with the recent events on the series and how Maggie has really stood up to the task?

It’s funny, because Glen Mazzara who runs the show said to me at the beginning of Season 3 that you’ve got some really challenging stuff coming up and I know that you can take it, that’s why I gave it to you, and I want to know how you feel about it. And I said to him that the harder that you make it for me, the better I will actually do with it. I have enjoyed this character because … the more difficult something is, the only option is 100 percent. For me, Maggie has been just that, and the fact that all of us go that far in the show and that the fans receive it so well, it’s one of the most validating things.

That Chicago convention was really fun with me and Steven and everybody in Chicago. By the way, Chicago is now one of my favourite cities in the world now. When we go and do these conventions, we are met with an unbelievable amount of love and it’s life affirming. This show is the fans. I mean, look where it started with a comic book that was so loved and then it became what everybody thought was just a zombie show and appeal to people that like that genre, and they’ve brought their family and their friends into the club. It all just feels really right.

When I go on Twitter and speak to people and the responses that people have had – especially to that last episode – you just know that you’re doing something right because we realize how we’re all so similar. The show is in I don’t know how many countries but it seems to affect a lot of people in the same way, and that sense of community with such far-flung places and people, it’s a spiritual experience for me and it’s really life affirming.

I know that things can get fragmented on this show in terms of who you get to work with. Is there anyone that you haven’t really had the chance to work at this point that you’d really like spend more time with?

Melissa McBride. We’re in tons of group stuff together and she is my hero as a person and as an actress. I love her. From the bottom of my belly and my heart I just absolutely think she’s the bee’s knees. I said to Glen (Mazzara), Goshdarnit, get me and Melissa, just the two of us.

Everyone’s so great and you get different things with everyone. And I have the best TV boyfriend you could ever ask for. Believe me, I’m pinching myself.

Many of the roles you have played have been on series with a darker tone. How do you step back from that darkness between takes or when you’re not working on this series?

The funny thing is that I’m actually not a dark person. I have this slight obsession with the occult, but in a way that makes me laugh. I did the post production on the midseason finale, which is Episode 8, and I will give you this spoiler that there is death involved. I won’t say who or what or anything like that, but there’s some action in there, and all of the guys in our post production were cracking up. Because they really have to get into it, sometimes they have to loop in some grunts and some war cries and all the sound effects that would come with these fights and they’re always cracking up at me because for some reason, it makes me hysterically laugh. I do these things and then I’m laughing and joking between every one, and that’s pretty much how I am on set. To me, the scenes where you’re saying goodbye to the characters that you love are dark and there’s no room for joking, no room for any sort of frivolity when we’re doing that, but when we get to do the action and the zombie action, we all relish it so much. But me, as a human being, I’m a real sort of jokester. That’s why I love Steven (Yeun) as my partner in crime because he’s got an insane sense of humour, as do Norman (Reedus) and Andy (Lincoln) … everybody’s so funny. To unwind, I love dancing and singing. I am so not a dark person.

I wanted to wrap with one final question. With all of the special effects that go into this series, what has been the most disgusting scene that you’ve had to film on The Walking Dead?

The scene where we have to take the baby out – and we were taking a fake baby out of the pocket of Lori’s fake stomach and then switching it out for a real baby when I’m holding it in my arms – that is pretty much up there. Second to that would just be stabbing the guard zombie underneath his mask. Do you remember the green guy in Ghostbusters, what was his name?


Yes, Slimer! Basically, it was like that. It wasn’t only that consistency, it was that volume of goo for every single take all over my hands. It was disgusting. I love it, though. I actually love it. It’s disgusting but it’s such comic relief.

Be sure to watch tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead, “Say the Word” at 9/8c on AMC.

Photo Courtesy of AMC

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