Walking Dead Week: Lauren Cohan on Playing Maggie | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Walking Dead Week: Lauren Cohan on Playing Maggie

Love in the Time of Zombies

Oct 11, 2014 Walking Dead Week Bookmark and Share

This week is Walking Dead Week on Under the Radar’s website. Season five of the wildly popular and critically acclaimed post-apocalyptic zombie drama starts this Sunday, October 12, at 9 p.m. (8 p.m. Central) on AMC. In anticipation of the show’s return, for this special theme week of coverage we have interviewed around 10 members of the show’s current cast and will be posting one to two Walking Dead interviews every day this week.

Given the role that romance plays in nearly every massively successful television drama, it’s telling that The Walking Dead has featured only one love story throughout its four seasons. There have been ill-fated infatuations (The Governor and Andrea), false starts (Bob and Sasha) and long-simmering rumors (Daryl and Carol), but only Glenn and Maggie have managed to successfully create and sustain a relationship. In a world with so much tragedy and despair, love is a luxury. Maggie and Glenn’s relationship provides one of the few reminders that some things are more important than staying one step ahead of death.

Lauren Cohan, who plays Maggie, knows that fans watch the show while bracing for the possibility (inevitability?) that Maggie or Glenn will die. Given the emotional drama inherent in splitting up the couple by having one of them meet their demise, it seems like it’s only a matter of time until the show’s writers cash in on all of the work they’ve done in building up the significance of their relationship. That’s a point Cohan’s not afraid to tease, either. When I ask her what episode the show is currently shooting, she replies “They’re on episode 14 right now,” as if she’s already speaking from the afterlife. “I always say ‘they,’” she laughs. “Mystery, mystery.”

Here, speaking from Georgia (if not the afterlife), Cohan reflects on Maggie’s persistent optimism, how she sees herself in her character, and where she’d like to see Maggie end up.

Matt Fink (Under the Radar): Since you’ve been playing Maggie now for four seasons, do you see her as a different character now than she was when you started?

Lauren Cohan: I’ve gotten to know her better, but I feel like she’s…I don’t know. I guess she’s kind of the same girl. Do we change that much? I feel like she didn’t know what she was capable of in the beginning, and then as we’ve progressed, she has done what she needed to do to protect her family. She didn’t know she was going to fall in love, and she didn’t know the barn was going to be taken down. She didn’t know that they’d have Shane on their hands and that they were going to lose their farm and find a prison and go out on the road. She didn’t know she was going to be married. I think she still has found the joy in those things. When they have that moment in the prison, and she says to Glenn, “I don’t want to be afraid of being alive.” She’s with this wonderful man, and, yeah, their lives are probably a little different than they expected them to be… because there are zombies everywhere. [Laughs] But you just have to take what you’re given and go from there.

So I think it has been a fun journey, because you have to navigate a world you never expected, but maybe that keeps everybody fresh! [Laughs] But it definitely has been fun. She has gotten stronger in a lot of ways and has kept her innocence about things, too. We get more and more weathered in this world, but it’s always about finding the focal point. Protecting her family and finding Glennwe didn’t see the group process the loss of Hershel, and that happened and it was so terrifying. And then they had to immediately get on the road and can’t find everybody. Then they have to find who still is alive and find a place to live. And…well, you’ve been watching the show. [Laughs]

Do you see a lot of yourself in Maggie?

Yeah, I think so. I mean, I obviously live in a house and I don’t sleep on the ground outside, but I think my values are very similar to Maggie’s. I think that’s what drew me to playing this character on some level. She has this curiosity. We meet her, and she has such a curiosity in the beginning when she meets Glenn, and there’s this scene where Glenn and T-Dog come up to the porch [when they first meet Maggie], and I think we sort of maintain that optimism. I’m definitely a very optimistic person. How do you really define a character? With her, I feel like as long as she has something to fight for or work towards, she can stay positive. I think a lot of us can relate to that.

It’s when her hands are tied that it gets difficult, and when we got to see Maggie and Glenn find each other at the end of last season, it was at a point when they couldn’t go any further. They were in a tunnel, and it was blocked, and it was right at that moment, when they think they can’t push any further, that they find each other. We see this so much with these charactersthey have to find a reason to keep goingbecause it would be really easy to give up. To die is to give up, and all you need to do is let go.

It’s difficult to remember why to keep going in this world, and she would have lost Glenn after just losing her father. She doesn’t know where her sister is, and she just lost her dad and her husband. That would have been a reason to give up, but she is creating a closeness and bond with those around her because she knows at the end of the day that that’s the only reason to keep going. That has been a really enjoyable part of [playing Maggie]. What are you? And what is it worth if you don’t have the people that you love or need you, as much as you need them?

When you originally signed on for the show did you have any idea that Maggie would be such a richly developed character?

I was pretty excited by her, and it was interesting, because in the beginning there was so much secrecy. I think I got six pages [when auditioning], and those six pages were things that we ended up shooting. I know that now they get a lot of phantom dialog for people to audition with, but from reading those pages, it was the scene where she asks Glenn if he’s praying and how he feels about God. I knew that the girl who asked those questions of somebody she just metthat excited me.

I’m a child of divorce, and I think I ask questions about that too soon in friendships and relationships. I’d ask people, “Are your parents together?” when I was 17 or 18. And I had a Swedish friend, and I asked her if her parents were together, and she said to me that she thought it was a very personal question. I hadn’t really felt that was an overly personal question, because I wasn’t the cause of the separation. But it gives me perspective to compare my lives to other people’s lives, knowing what they’re parental situation was like.

When I read that scene with Maggie, I thought, “This is so interesting.” Because on one level, the way she and Glenn’s relationship develops was that she wanted to do everything right away. She wants to find out who he is and ask him personal questions about faith right away, and they go to the pharmacy, and she’s like, “Let’s do this bold thing and sleep with each other.” I initially thought that was because the world could end tomorrow, but I think that she just loved the excuse that the world could end tomorrow, because she was really curious and impulsive! [Laughs] I always thought there was such a sense of fun about her. She’s really protective and she’s puckish, almost. She’s a good Southern girl, but she stands up to her father about Glenn and his prejudices about the two of them being together. And when she explains that to Hershel and they have that scene in the kitchen in season two, and she says to him, “Why should your love and acceptance and appreciation of God’s word not apply to Glenn and this relationship?” And then by the end of the season, he gives Glenn his pocket watch and thanks him for protecting his daughter. I don’t know if any of this makes sense. But I’ve always liked that she’s growing up. We see her grow up.

Do you have any idea why the show is so popular?

I don’t know if it’s just because we all like doing it so much. Every person who comes on the show, we already know we’re going to like them. Our producers and our casting department find the right people to be on the show, and everybody has their back. Everyone feels so much support, and everybody really wants to be there, and we’re all so inspired by the writing. But I don’t know how else to describe it, because you can have great writing and great actors and a great crew…. I like being in Georgia. I like that we’re removed from the industry, because it has a purity to it. And I like that as the show goes further, it just feels to me like it gets better. The connection between audience and show is so cyclical. We feel that connection from people, and I’m so glad that with each season we get to go to deeper places because people are really invested in the show and the characters. But I wish I could say why. If the reason everybody likes watching the show is anything like why I like doing the show, then I understand it. I don’t know how to put it into words. I just don’t want it to end. I just enjoy it.

I get to do the show with people that are so well-intentioned. Like, Chad Coleman, for example, has the biggest heart of anybody I’ve ever known. The person I love talking to is the character I love watching. He’s so strong, but he’s got so much vulnerability. And Rick, he’s always trying to do the right thing, and he messed up sometimes. But he just wants to do the right thing, and he thinks, “This is what I need to be to this group. This is how I need to protect and lead them.” Sometimes he’s going to fuck up, but we can all relate to what he’s trying to do. Also, it makes me feel bad that Hershel left, because that’s someone I want in my life. I want him in my life on my television screen, if I’m watching the show. And I want him in my life if I work with him every day. Not wanting those relationships to cease is what makes me love the show. So I can only assume that that translates on television.

When you think about the future of Maggie, where would you like to see her go?

I would really like to see her keep surviving. I’d like to see us get to a safe place, and I still, in a lot of ways, see the young Maggie. She’ll be physically strong and protect her family, but she’s still figuring a lot of things out. Her heart is in the right place, I think, so much of the time. Where I’d like to see her go is to keep going. That sounds really silly, but I’d like her to keep going and continue to find joy in whatever situation she is in. I’m realizing how much this sounds like me in my own life! [Laughs] But after four years, you become so much a part of the character, and your character becomes such a part of you, that you play a lot of life questions in your work. I’m always constantly surprised and so delighted by our scripts, and I read them voraciously. I love the places that [showrunner] Scott Gimple and our writing team take us to, and I finally understand that it’s the journey, not the destination, in so many ways. I’d like to see what’s in store for her, and I try not to crave too much. I just want to continue to deepen who she is as a woman and who she is in relationship with other characters. It’s good. It’s challenging. I just want that to continue.




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