The Walking Dead Midseason Finale: Lauren Cohan Postmortem (Exclusive)

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Warning: this story contains spoilers for Sunday’s “Acts of God” episode of The Walking Dead. The last-ever midseason finale of The Walking Dead is one of walkers, wrath, and war of biblical proportions. In “Acts of God,” Part 2 of the three-part final season ends with Maggie (Lauren Cohan) vowing to finish her fight with Lance Hornsby (Josh Hamilton) of the Commonwealth and Leah Shaw (Lynn Collins) of the Reapers. Daryl (Norman Reedus) saves Maggie when he kills Leah in the cabin where he found love while looking for the missing Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), but the battle with Hornsby is just beginning: the ambitious deputy governor of the Commonwealth clinches his power grab when he takes over the allied communities of Hilltop, Oceanside, and Alexandria.

“I think ‘power corrupts’ is a pretty good way to tease how the rest of the season goes,” Cohan exclusively told ComicBook of the third and final block of episodes airing later this year on AMC. With eight episodes until the end of The Walking Dead, Cohan previewed what happens after that cliffhanger, the zombie drama’s endgame, and continuing Maggie’s story in a new corner of TWD Universe.

ComicBook: Let’s jump straight to that ending with Lance unfurling Commonwealth flags over the walls of Alexandria, Hilltop, and Oceanside. What was your reaction to those flags coming down, and what can you say about what happens next?

Lauren Cohan: My reaction to the flags, I mean, that was just the culmination of all those suspicions of what Hornsby’s about. It’s certainly ominous. It feels like … I don’t know, sadly just like, if everything seemed too good to be true, it’s probably because it was. And then at this point, yeah, he’s an interesting character. He’s definitely trying to gain control and it’s pretty sinister.

ComicBook: This episode puts Maggie in Lance and Leah’s cross hairs. Explain why it’s so important to Maggie that she be the one to finish this fight with Hornsby.

Lauren Cohan: I think that people have backed Maggie up in certain fights that she’s had to undertake. I know that she wants to prevent other people getting hurt. There’s probably a combination of keeping other people safe and away from the danger, and also just the focus and the stealthiness. But I think more than anything it’s really like, ‘You guys have done enough.’ And there have been certain people that have definitely at this point, like Marco (Gustavo Gomez) … I think it’s just the fact of not wanting collateral damage and needing to take responsibility for this, because she sees it as started by her and she should finish it.

ComicBook: Maggie and Leah are at war to avenge their families killed by the other. Maggie tells her, “I know what you want. You want me to suffer and feel what you felt because you think that takes your pain away.” Does Maggie see Leah as a dark mirror version of herself she risks becoming if her humanity is lost?

Lauren Cohan: Yeah, I think that’s a very good way to describe it. I think there’s also a tragedy in every … People aren’t simply good or evil. There’s good in Leah too, and there’s the tragedy of what could have happened. There’s what could have happened with her and Daryl. There’s what could have happened with Leah as an ally if they had met under different circumstances, and if she had met Maggie’s group and Alexandria and our team before aligning with the Reapers. It’s always what happens in this world and that’s what happens. You see capability and strength in people, and you end up seeing where they end up. But at this point, despite there having been a potential for Leah, it’s kill or be killed in this situation for Maggie.

ComicBook: Maggie and Leah’s fight to the death is brutal, bloody and badass. What was it like filming that with Lynn?

Lauren Cohan: Oh, so much fun. That’s honestly one of my favorite things I’ve done on the show. Lynn is just a great human being and we had so much fun together. And knowing that the fight was to the death, it gives us as actors such a lot of energy and passion that we want to put into it. And knowing that these two women are really fighting for their lives. It’s also just this, all of the mounting stresses and aggressions of the world we live in, that these characters live in, and what they’ve had to become, it’s animalistic. I know for both of us that was just such a satisfying thing to put on screen. And our director, Catriona McKenzie, wanted an Atomic Blonde moment with how we did those stunts and that fight. We were so game for it. You couldn’t go into a battle, even when it’s a pretend battle, with a better person than Lynn Collins. She is such a cool badass. I love her.

ComicBook: This block of episodes started and ended with Maggie in these really visceral, savage fights with the Reapers.

Lauren Cohan: Savage, that’s exactly the word. It’s totally savage. And that’s been the theme with them, I think because they’re such accomplished fighters, it brings out the most savage elements of anybody they come up against.

ComicBook: Leah is probably Daryl’s first romantic love ever, and he doesn’t hesitate to kill her to save Maggie. How would you characterize the relationship between Maggie and Daryl after all these years?

Lauren Cohan: I think they’re like brother and sister. I can’t imagine if the situation was reversed for Maggie and there was somebody [who Maggie loved trying to kill Daryl]. I can’t imagine her hesitating to save him because they’ve been through everything together. It’s family in the deepest sense of the word, really. So it’s heartbreaking that he does have to shoot her but there’s also an element of, he let her go earlier [in the mid-season premiere “No Other Way”] and it did turn out bad.

ComicBook: Back in Season 9, Michonne (Danai Gurira) stands in the way of Maggie killing Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) by telling her Glenn and her father wouldn’t want her to do it. What do you think happens when Maggie finds out her son almost gunned down Negan in cold blood?

Lauren Cohan: I think that Maggie was always afraid for Hershel (Kien Michael Spiller) to see this person, to come face to face with Negan and to realize he was the one who had done this to his father. I always wonder partly if a child is going to be resentful towards that person, but I think they are as protective of how their surviving parent was hurt. I wonder about that with him. I think that’s a question that can just never be answered. Hershel never knew his dad but he has this peripheral understanding of Negan’s negative impact on his remaining family. No. I definitely do not think she would want that on his conscience for him ever to do that to somebody. I think that’s part of why Maggie wants to deal with her resentment of Negan healthily. Because whatever ways he’s affecting her, are not things that she wants her son to see. She doesn’t want her son to see her being affected in that way. That’s important. So a big part of why she would have been scared for him to come face to face with Negan, is for her to not be there to help manage it or to protect him somehow from his reactions.

ComicBook: Maggie tells Negan she’s starting to trust him. We’ve started to see that, but it’s shocking to hear her say it. What does it mean for Maggie moving forward that she’s twice now entrusted her son’s life with the man who killed his father? Does it tie into Maggie’s healthy way of dealing with Negan, as you said?

Lauren Cohan: Yeah. Well, the first time it happens, she’s pretty pissed about it. But she’s glad that Hershel … I mean, she’s scared that Hershel has actually followed them there. She doesn’t feel good about the fact that Negan is with him but at the same time … That’s an interesting episode [“The Rotten Core”], when she and Annie (Medina Senghore) get to have that conversation and when they’re alone together. I mean, in this episode it’s like, it is a big moment when Maggie tells Negan she trusts him. A big part of that I think is for the needs at that moment, which is keeping Hershel safe so she can go and eliminate these threats that have to be eliminated. It’s kind of a no-choice situation. I know that despite how she feels about Negan, he does have this reputation for being a caretaker of younger people and trustworthy in that sense. She knows in her rational mind that he is not going to enact things like he did with Glenn and Abraham now. The other thing is that Annie being there, and Annie vouching for him and his relationship with her, I think does help to pave the way for Maggie to accept that he has changed, which does not change what happened.

I think Maggie, she can see what Annie needs and what is fulfilled from this version of Negan for her, right? Enough to know that. I think right off the bat, she gets a sense of this woman and she feels a kinship with her because of the way she leads and because of her compassion, which I think is really evident as soon as you meet Medina’s character. She just has that spirit and I think that Maggie recognizes that. And the fact that Annie embraces this ‘not waiting to live,’ which was such an important thing [which calls back to] Maggie being excited to be pregnant and to still embrace life in this world when her and Glenn were pregnant. Yeah. I think that’s a certain type of person and I think she feels that kind of kinship with Annie. That’s why I love that moment at the end and that definitely felt like throughout the scene, just the moment when I turned to Annie at the end for that extra reassurance.

ComicBook: Since we last talked, AMC announced Maggie and Negan spinoff Isle of the Dead. There have been talks of a Maggie spinoff for years now — was it always the plan to pair off Maggie and Negan into their own show? Or did that idea evolve out of the Maggie-Negan teamwork we’ve seen in Season 11?

Lauren Cohan: I know there have always been three, maybe four options for how Maggie would end up in a spinoff. For Maggie or Negan there’s been a bunch of ideas floating around. I think this story that [showrunner] Eli Jorne came up with, which is what we’ll be shooting for season one of Isle of the Dead, was just really powerful and such an interesting way for fans to get to see these characters continue. I mean, Jeff and I are just over the moon because it completely serves who they are and where they will end up at the end of Season 11. It’s still like, it’s somehow even more fraught than we’ve been in this season. So it’s good for us because we got to … I feel like I got to find things of Maggie that I wanted to explore more, and this backdrop for Isle and in conflict with Negan is such a great opportunity to do it. So I think they had a lot of different ideas and then they sketched everything out. And whatever feels the most enticing and what we think the fans will be most excited about, is what won the day.

ComicBook: What can we expect when The Walking Dead returns with its final eight episodes?

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Lauren Cohan: I think “power corrupts” is a pretty good way to tease how the rest of the season goes!

The final season of The Walking Dead returns with new episodes later this year on AMC. Follow @CameronBonomolo on Twitter and @NewsOfTheDead for TWD Universe coverage all season long.

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