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THE WALKING DEAD’s Lauren Cohan Talks Leadership & Growth for Maggie at NYCC

Lauren Cohan laughed on the phone when mentioning her “27” costars on The Walking Dead, but the love clearly felt both for her on-set family and her own character Maggie rang true. The Walking Dead returned last night with the premiere episode of season 6, and fans at New York Comic Con were thrilled to see the cast take the stage with Yvette Nicole Brown for the fan premiere event at Madison Square Garden this weekend. Our very own Dan Casey was there and his twitter feed is full of fun pictures and shares from the night.

I sat down with Cohan on Thursday just as the convention started, and she had lots of insight on where Maggie will start the season and the challenges she faces. Here’s what she had to say about The Walking Dead season 6.

Nerdist : Are you excited for NYCC?

Lauren Cohan: Yes, very excited. Premiere plus Comic Con in one weekend. It’s rad.

N: It sounds incredibly busy as well.

LC: I know, but it’s nice because we’re all here and we’re having – I mean, I think my adrenaline is going to be through the roof probably.

N: Can you tell me about the fan event you’re doing on Saturday with Courtyard? 

LC: Yeah, we have our thing on Friday, and then on Saturday, I’m doing a Q&A with fans and a Just Dance competition with Cosplay Closet and this whole dance competition which is going to be really fun. And then the Q&A which will be good because we have 27 of us on Friday. And then I’ll get to do more stuff on Saturday. I don’t know if I’ll be dancing but I’ll definitely be involved. It’ll be good.

N: As Maggie, you get to be a total badass but you also get to embrace being feminine in this terrible, post-apocalyptic world. Can you talk about how your character has balanced that femininity while still growing and moving on from tragedy? 

LC: That’s a really well put synopsis which is beautiful. I appreciate all your thought into that. The journey has been – I love saying “slow and steady wins the race” because she has navigated what her strengths are going to be as she’s gone along. And nobody chose for the world to be the way it is. I think that Maggie has taken lessons from Hershel and has tried to do the job that she can do. Basically… what’s been great about the whole journey is that she does what she’s had to do, and that’s I think that’s a big part of what Hershel told Maggie and Beth is that we all have jobs to do. And it takes a minute to figure out how you apply your greatest strengths to anything. And you don’t not fall in love. And you don’t not be vulnerable just because the world had become so tough. You don’t just suddenly turn those parts of yourself off.

But your basic human instinct is to survive, and I think that Maggie has shown that she wants to survive and also that there is brutality, and there’s this kind of impulsive aggression that her group has, which is a great asset. It’s not something that they really, really need, and it’s actually given them the invitation into Alexandria in the first place because Deanna sees that, and knows that the Alexandrians need that. But also Maggie has gone through – none of them have had the luxury to say, “If this were longer term what would we do to build something or community?” So when she meets Deanna, when she meets this mentor, she gets to have these conversations and begins to think about things in this scope again. And they did what they’ve been doing all along, they did what they had to do to find a safe hold, and now maybe there’s this chance that we can build, we can farm, we can plant, we can sustain, they can do things they tried to do in the prison. You know, Hershel tried to farm at the prison.

So that’s been really interesting, but it’s keeping a foot in both territories really. And it’s knowing that there needs to be diplomacy and sometimes there needs to be brute force. But above all I think Maggie’s through-line has just been, as we see with Nicholas  — her attitude towards Nicholas in the premiere episode — is if there’s a chance that people can be good, and that they can be their better self, then you have to give room for that. Because everybody can do bad things but they can also be a strength or be an asset. We’ll see where that pays off. We’ll see if that’s a good choice or not. Yeah. That’s generally it — the theme.

N: It sounds like you’re going to get to be much more of a leader this season. And even from what you just said, it sounds like that might start off right at the beginning?

LC: Yeah, I mean I think firstly, Deanna has taught Maggie a lot, and has seen the potential in her. And when Deanna is now fallen — not fallen but suffering from the loss of Reg and everything that happened at the end of last season, Maggie sort of has to give her back her own strength and sort of teach her what she showed her, and that’s where she really starts to see where her responsibility lies. And she doesn’t have a choice now. There’s times we see during this season where Rick impresses that upon her and just says, “You have to start doing this stuff,” and I think that she’s definitely been a support, she’s definitely been a strength but there are ways she needs to help even more so she’s sort of has to step up. It’s been great fun to play because it’s like… the physical pressures are still all there, and there’s a lot of turmoil and a lot of enemies and she still has to be that physical — she still has to be active but she has to sort of keep her head in the long game.

N: Has it been fun to be active on social media in this kind of position where you get to interact with fans in this new and exciting up to the minute way?

LC: Yeah I really like social media. It’s sometimes tricky for us during the season because we can’t do any social media or photos that spoil any slight hint of what the show’s up to. But it’s been really good to be able to – in an unfiltered way say, “This is who I am and this is the message I want to promote.” And I definitely don’t get crazy on social media about anything but I think it’s nice to put it out there.

N: It was fun looking through Instagram to see you sharing memories with fans, which I think is what a lot of fans want to see — without getting spoiled.

LC: No exactly, and that’s what’s actually been really nice is that [those were] pictures that I took last year, a lot of the time with people who are no longer on the show. It’s just been sort of meaningful, and I know that the fans appreciate that as much. They’re as much a part of this family, so for us to have our Throwback Thursdays to our friends from the show who may not still be on it, it’s definitely like a photo album. It is a photo album.

Let us know what you’re looking forward to in The Walking Dead season 6 in the comments below.

Image Credit: Charles Sykes/Invision/AP

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