Warning: contains spoilers for The Walking Dead season 6.
Through some choice genre roles in the likes of Supernatural, Chuck, The Vampire Diaries and Archer, Lauren Cohan has cemented herself as a geek icon, but it’s her long-standing role as Maggie Greene on The Walking Dead that’s allowed her to really shine. Maggie’s journey has seen her suffer extreme loss, with her once rather large family cut down to err… zero, but she’s also been the only character to sustain a long term relationship with Mr Glenn Rhee and out of that love, there’s now the possibility of the show’s second baby on the way.
Of course like most of the core characters, both Glenn and Maggie are in the line of bat, but arguably these two have the most to lose – one either loses his wife and unborn child, while the other stands to lose her husband and the father of said child.
One thing that hasn’t faltered is Maggie’s sheer force of will and her ability to kick both living and undead ass seven ways from sundown, so it was our great pleasure to chat to Lauren Cohan about all things Walking Dead, with a little Chuck at the end because, if you haven’t had the pleasure yet, it’s one of the greatest shows of all time.
So without further ado…
Firstly, I just wanted to say congratulations on five seasons of fantastic work, your debut must seem like a lifetime ago now?
Yeah isn’t it funny… it sometimes feels like it’s just happened. I actually just remember thinking about something I did last year, where I was on a balcony and I was shouting and it reminded me of my first scene in Walking Dead where I see Rick running with Carl and I shout “Dad!” and I thought ‘Maggie shouts people’s names a lot in this show!’ [laughs]
And preferably from a good vantage point, she does like a good vantage point!
Yes she does, she’s either on a plinth, or a platform, or a watch tower, or a porch. I’m gonna call her ‘Vantage Point Maggie’ I think – ‘Maggie Vantage’ actually that sounds like a superhero name! It’s funny to hear you say that – I feel like it’s a time to reflect.
It’s a good amount of time that’s passed I guess and it’s strange for me as well, having interviewed a lot of your peers over the years when you suddenly realise – wait two years ago the prison was just on its way out and another two years ago you were back at the farmhouse…
I know, like we lost Hershel, we lost Beth- everything is like a huge landmark and then at those times it still felt like… it’s always so visceral and new even when it’s… not new anymore.
I know what you mean because even though we’re at season 6, for me personally, it’s still been one of the strongest in terms of the emotional impact. Even the ending which proved to be quite controversial in terms of audience reaction – though I had no problem waiting to find out what’s happened – but for you as an actor, it must be incredible to read those scripts and then have to go through that level of drama and anxiety?
Yeah going through them is really… I don’t know, it’s funny – you read it and it’s like when you read a book and you know the ending’s coming – I have a friend who is a writer, who always reads the end of a book before she starts it – and when we get these stories, a lot of the time you wish it would turn out differently and if you don’t turn up for work, that maybe it just won’t happen! [laughs]
So you hope that by striking, that maybe they’ll live happily ever after!
Yeah! I mean I remember when Jon (Bernthal, who played Shane) really didn’t want to leave. It’s so annoying as you don’t ever want your time to end but you also, weirdly, what’s happened for me in the last year and a half/two years of being on the show is that you have this… I don’t know I guess your fate gets taken over and you just know that whatever comes, you know is right – I sound very maudlin, just like The Walking Dead!
But now I think season 6 especially, was so rich and I just love what Scott (Gimple, showrunner) does, I have complete faith all the time and trust all the time, because it just propels the most insane story, it always does. As horrible as it is, it always brings a more insane story that you couldn’t have anticipated before.
It’s funny actually, with season 6 in particular, I remember thinking that because I love the show and have done since the start, there’s a part of me asking ‘Why are you doing this to yourself?’ All you do is develop a more of an attachment to the characters as the time goes on, so when they’re suffering it’s heartbreaking.
Our camera operators say that, because in episode 16 that finale was… you don’t come out of the state that you’re in – you’re in that state for four nights, so we did that particular scene and you just sort of stay there and you don’t have to explain anything to anyone and it’s so hard sometimes for producers and directors and camera people – they’re watching us and they’re right there, in our face and we’re doing all this scene.
But I also feel like we get to be so close doing that and that honestly is really, really, really, grounding and feels really good, as torturous as it is – not torturous, but I found it weird, because sometimes you get to exorcise it and you go through it and you let that out, but you know Jeffrey (Dean Morgan) playing Negan doesn’t let it out! [laughs] He has to go through it and experience it and look at how many of us are kneeling on the ground and just enact that and then he doesn’t get any relief and we haven’t seen him actually releasing the attention and the emotion.
I know it goes without saying that all The Walking Dead’s characters have lost people they love, but Maggie’s lost so many… she had a big family and now they’re all gone and she’s just got Glenn. She’s now ended up being the catalyst for the first Negan meeting, because of the need to get her help with the pregnancy. But I think that Maggie has always been a very strong character and has gotten stronger and tougher because of all the suffering she’s endured, would you say that’s right?
Yeah one hundred percent. I think it’s interesting when you think about toughening, because part of I think the strength in the way she’s written is that she stays open, even though you could want to shut down and just get by. I think there’s some stuff we explored with Abraham’s character about when he opens up to the idea of having a child with someone and the risks that it entails and the conversation that he and Glenn have.
And the point of view that Maggie comes from is – because of who you’ve lost, to remain vulnerable and in having a child to create love out of what you’ve lost and to believe enough in the world, that you’d bring a child into it and to take the lessons from dad and from sister and from family and from everything that they go through – to still experience these joys that put you at more risk in some ways – that’s my favourite part of her strength, is that she continues to expose herself to and continues to pursue beauty and hope and positivity … she doesn’t shut down.
Definitely and you can’t help but respect that in a character, because I spent today with my two year old boy and as soon as you have a child you suddenly think ‘I can’t conceive of doing this in the apocalypse!’
Yeah, it’s so funny because two of my colleagues on the show had babies recently and it’s like I’m definitely a baby age myself – wait that sounds like I’m a baby! I’m at the age of having babies! [laughs] And I see what you say about taking a risk – not even just the risk, but the logistics and difficulty of having a child and then add the world they live in! But it’s sort of like this idea of experiencing the connection, like loving someone so deeply and the pain of their loss is not less, because you loved them less. So I think that to continue to believe that good will come of everything, if I pursue with an open heart and proceed with an honest open heart.
It’s like you as a parent – you know that your kid’s not gonna call you when they’re supposed to and they may get into trouble and all these different things may happen, but the joys of being with your son is probably… I mean I don’t imagine there’s a love that’s deeper, or greater, than the love of your kid and also lately, especially playing pregnant, I talked to a lot of people with babies about how they feel about their babies! [laughs]
One of Maggie’s key strengths as well is her adaptability, I think a lot of characters have remained similar, but Maggie has changed to her circumstances in terms of responsibilities, or what she’s doing – is there a phase of Maggie’s that you’re particularly fond of?
Oh God… there was a time when things felt more frantic and that wasn’t my favourite, it was appropriate to the time and the journey – I think right after Hershel died and when I was looking for Glenn and we were getting out of the prison, that time felt so emotionally fraught and I think it’s always testament to that story, the newness of that emotion, where I was at, where everything was at. You know it’s funny, because the show is woven with our lives so much and that’s sort of inextricable, but as we’ve proceeded – it’s weird, the character always offers up the opportunity to explore in the same way that life does.
We’re big fans of Chuck at Den of Geek, so even though it was a while ago now, I wanted to ask what about any fond memories you have, or how it was having Timothy Dalton as a dad?
Oh it was fun, he’s so much fun. It’s so funny… nothing feels like that long ago, it’s always the way! I felt like that was a fun show. Timothy Dalton is like… every actor who I work with who either plays my dad, or is of a father figure age and people that are… there’s a link and they’re all still extremely childlike in the play of the job and in the pleasure of the job and I learnt so much from that and that’s a consistency I think. And I look up to that so much, staying kind of child hearted in life and in this is very refreshing and he’s like that, he’s just playful. It’s like being serious about the job and being hard working and respectful, but also not ever taking yourself too seriously and he’s 100% that type of actor.
Oh and wait you asked about my favourite phase of Maggie’s and I gave you one of my least favourites, but my favourite part of the job is listening, when she’s just listening! [laughs] I love the group stuff.
Oh really, I always thought that reacting was more difficult in some ways?
Well that’s hard, but I suppose watching my peers go through things and being with them is my favourite, but the reacting stuff like when Emily… when Beth died, that was hard, so hard – it’s all hard, but it’s all great and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Lauren Cohan, thank you very much!
The Walking Dead: The Complete Sixth Season is available on Blu-ray™ and DVD from 26th September 2016, courtesy of Entertainment One.