Lauren Cohan almost slipped into our office unnoticed. Sure, she's strikingly beautiful, even when wearing an off-duty pair of loose jeans and a basic cashmere sweater, but for being one of the leads in one of cable television's most popular shows, she was able to go fairly incognito. Perhaps it was because she wasn't covered in grit and blood, but she seemed freshly showered and her hair brushed, was quick to laugh instead of being in a state of constant fear, and most importantly, her familiar Southern accent was replaced with her actual British one. (Walking Dead fans, did you know both her and Andy, who plays Rick, are British? Crazy, right?)
However, eventually, she was noticed — there are a lot of fans lurking about — and Cohan gleefully joined in hugs and inside jokes, posing for Instagram snaps and answering questions about her fan-favorite character, the irrepressible Maggie Greene. Like everyone, Maggie has had it hard, losing her family, almost losing her father, and being subjected to The Governor's sexual abuse last season. But, Cohan lets us know: Maggie is stronger than ever. That wasn't the only hint she gave up about the upcoming season of The Walking Dead, but she also let us in on a couple of secrets, like who would live in a real zombie apocalypse, and why it is important for us all to believe in the love between Glenn and Maggie.
So, you had a pregnancy scare in the first episode of Season 4. Now that Maggie and Glenn are engaged, how does that realization change the game for her?
"Well, Maggie and Glenn come at it very differently. It's not ideal, but because we've had the semblance of safety for the last few months, it doesn't feel impossible. So, when they start this conversation, it sort of weakens Maggie in the respect that she is no longer able to go out there and fight. But, at the end of the episode, Glenn has almost died, but she's not pregnant. But, she is accepting of it. She would be willing to have the baby. There is something in Maggie's disposition this year that is...strengthened? By all the trauma she went through with The Governor. She's got this sort of inner strength and inner peace that makes her feel like she can handle it. It is not ideal. You know, they love each other and, of course, they want to have a baby together, but..."
She's always been kind of a tough lady, and you get the sense that Glenn is the one who is a bit more sensitive out of the two. So, when you said she was accepting of her pregnancy, that's surprising.
"It's a really big change. She's gotten stronger and softer at the same time. So, she's not shaken this year — and she's not shaken by tenderness this year. She's becoming a woman. She's really becoming a woman. Her feet are firmer in the ground. If the next part of this challenge for her is having a baby, well, okay. She's always been the really matter-of-fact one, and Glenn is sentimental."
Well, from a fan perspective, there is so much loss and hurt that the possibility of love and trust as demonstrated by Maggie and Glenn is a real touch of humanity that we need!
"A lot of what we tackle in this season...well, I always think about relationships, in general, as either being sort of healthily independent or a codependent relationship. And, I am trying to figure out where Maggie and Glenn fall. You can see a level of desperation in their love for each other that always make people question, 'Is it safer to be with someone or is it safer to be alone?' What, for me, has been so fun about playing this is that Maggie and Glenn are younger than (me and Steven), so they are struggling through a codependence."
"I was speaking with a girlfriend I was taking an acting class with, and she's very strong and independent, and she had this revelation about a guy she was seeing. She decided she had to pretend that she couldn't do certain stuff because she had been single for so long. But, in doing that, she began to realize it was really no fun to have to be able to fix this thing, build s**t, do all the stuff around the house that requires a partner. So, she decided to open the door for all the lovely parts of a relationship to kind of make this guy feel needed. Then she found out she really did need him. So, we are all going through that kind of exercise."
"That's so funny. I was just talking to Danai (Gurira, who plays Michonne) about the parts of a man that are attractive, and seeing them become the man that they know they can be. In their world, you won't survive unless you become the best version of yourself. With Maggie and Glenn, they meet each other at a similar point in their transition. They are both striving to become the best versions of themselves, and the key to that is supporting each other. Maggie gets the chance of explaining to Herschel in Season 2, and she quotes the Bible, and she says, 'Love one another, that is what you've always told me.' She's so surprised at her dad's own prejudices and reservations about Glenn, but she sees everything that she has been brought up to recognize as good and honorable in him."
What was the turning point for Maggie and Glenn to move past last season's rift?
"I think Rick and Laurie set such an example for them, and there was so much regret in an unmended relationship. That regret was felt throughout the whole group."
You had a particularly grueling scene in the last season with The Governor. What was it that you wanted to portray, and what was it that you didn't want to portray, when dealing with such a volatile and horrific topic?
"For her, it was her putting up that shell again. Maggie is not an unemotional person, but you also see her put up the facade. If she felt The Governor would see weakness, then it was all over. She was going to go through, and for lack of a better word, take what she had to take if it meant that Glenn wasn't going to die. If she could do something to save Glenn, even if it had the potential to jeopardize her or her relationship, she would do it. Her objective was to detach her brain."
It was such a sensitive moment, and a lot of people weighed in about how it was and wasn't done correctly. Is there anything you were hoping to avoid when depicting trauma like that?
"From my perspective, I thought: 'He didn't deserve her emotion.' And, that is what I went in there with. That was not a safe place for her to breakdown. But, as soon as she went into the room with Glenn, she felt for him the shame that he feels for her. That's when it hit her: S**t, we really messed up getting caught. In the scene itself, I just let myself feel complete hatred for The Governor. I hadn't worked with David (Morrissey), so I just let him represent the ultimate evil."
We spoke with Norman Reedus...and he told us about his crazy fans. Is that true? Do you get crazy fans, too?
"He gets boxes and boxes. It takes him hours every week to open everything. The entire interior of his trailer is plastered with pictures."
Are you subject to anything like that?
"Well, I really love interacting with fans. On a level, it is different for men. It is less...well, especially when you play a vulnerable character, you really need to disconnect from it and come back to the real world. It takes a while. At the end of last season, I had to find my way back to my own life. But, I am starting to really enjoy social media as a resource...I don't know if it is unique to this show, but you get these very personal and unique interactions with people watching the show, and it makes the world seem so much closer and smaller. All this is talking to somebody, and then talking to somebody else, and it becomes this very intimate thing. I love how popular this show is. It feels so human."
Do you think that this TV show has made you more accustomed to gore and violence?
"Definitely. Definitely. I can now talk matter-of-factly about stabbing a walker through the eye socket and the squelching sounds that it makes. I still feel a little nauseous, but not really."
How is the accent working out for you?
"Mostly, the key with the Southern is just staying in it when I'm in Georgia. Going to breakfast with Andy (who plays Rick Grimes) is really funny, because Andy has a really heavy English accent. The accent is a great gateway into the character. It's a way of life. Georgia has been so good for my soul. There is such a sweetness down there. I get to play this character who is really very romantic. She has very romantic leanings. And, I find so much of that romance down there."
So, can we talk about being dirty? You guys have very little, but are relatively, like, hair-free. I know it's TV, but where do you draw the line at screen dirty and actually dirty?
"Well, you start at the armpits. At first I wasn't shaving my armpits, but then you go back and do flashback scenes and you have to shave them. It's partly a continuity issue, and it is partly that one episode may be a week. There is a lot of room in their lives for hygiene. Also, razors don't take electricity. I used to think about that all the time. Like, even when I watched Shakespeare In Love, I'd think, 'Ugh, I don't want to kiss him! He doesn't have a toothbrush!' I have to get navy sheets, because no matter how much I shower, I always get blood on my sheets."
Okay, let's talk spoilers. Any new couples?
"Yes! A number."
Any terrifying deaths?
"Yes. It's the only bad part of the show. We lose people."
Anything you want fans to notice where Maggie is concerned?
"Oh my God, so many things! She kind of gets a little mischievous. Not sexually or romantically or with anyone else, but this season you see her interact with more people in different lights. There is a very gory journey, but a gorgeous character insight we never had before with people who have been on the show for ages."
Okay, obvious question: Who out of the cast should be with you when the zombies attack?
"Steven. Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green)...she's so fun. She, Steven, and Danai, and I have a lot of laughs. I don't think people realize that everyone on set is really dry and funny. Michonne...I can't tell if I am talking about the people or the characters. Norman. But, also, my sister and my dad. Emily (Kinney, who played Beth). Andy...I can't pick! I don't think strategically. I just want to have fun!"
Photographed by Rockie Nolan