Lauren Cohan returns to The Walking Dead after nearly two years — and opens up about how she's feeling about the show coming to an end, as well as teases some of what's to come for Maggie Rhee

By Breanne L. Heldman
October 04, 2020 10:07 PM
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Credit: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

Maggie. Is. Back!

In The Walking Dead's season 10 finale (well, semi-finale), Maggie Rhee (Lauren Cohan) was seen picking up a letter detailing the Alexandrians and co.'s fight with the Whisperers. And it was just in time, too, as Beta (Ryan Hurst) and their hoard of walkers descended on the building where our many of our favorite survivors were hiding out.

The episode marked the first time we've seen Cohan, 38, as Maggie in nearly two years. She last appeared in season 9, episode 5, which aired in November 2018 and also marked the final episode for Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes. Maggie's disappearance was explained later that season; at some point during a six-year time jump, she and her son, baby Hershel, left Hilltop to join up with the mysterious Georgie (Jayne Atkinson) and her group.

While Sunday's episode — which included the seeming end of the long-running Whisperer war — didn't exactly provide much in the way of answers as to how Maggie's been spending her time in intervening years, PEOPLE was able to catch up with Cohan to discuss her return to the series, how she's feeling about the show coming to an end and when we might get to see baby Hershel (who's not a baby anymore).

PEOPLE: How does it feel to be back?

LAUREN COHAN: It feels great. Coming back to set, I had that kind of nervous excitement. I joked with Seth Gilliam that I needed to run my line, because I had only one thing to say in the episode, but I was so nervous. It was just great fun. It was such a cool thing to read the script not knowing what direction it was going to go in and then that's how I was going to come back and with whom I was going to come back, with this sort of this masked, lethal, really cool weapon man. We don't even know what we're calling him yet!

Credit: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

What was the first day back on set like?

I actually was in Georgia shadowing Daisy Mayer, our director on the previous episode. So I was on set for about three weeks before we even did my episode. So I had a lot of time to just catch up with everybody. And then... it was great having Greg Nicotero directing me in this episode because you know, he's one of our OGs, so it was fitting to have Maggie brought back in. The cast and crew is kind of immediate family.

Does you shadowing Daisy Mayer mean you're going to direct an upcoming episode?

We'll see how the schedule works. It's the kind of thing I would only undertake if I really had the bandwidth to do it right.

What had you missed most about the show?

I missed the way that we work, the immersion. Because when you're there, it's always been so good. I like to come back early — we don't start for another month but I'm in Georgia already just to sort of get my head in the atmosphere. I missed the pace of the show and the intensity of the action of the show, but also that the priorities are very clear. You're building your community, your team around you of those ride-or-die friends and family. And it's to safeguard each other. In every single situation with Maggie, even her going far afield as she has, with close to a decade she's been on this sort of exploratory mission.

Was she always going to come back?

Whether she knew she would come back or not, we don't know. But, we do know that she was able to pick up a lot and expand herself and add and learn. And then now that it's necessary and Carol says, "Things are pretty dire, can you come back?" She's coming back with all this experience in tow.

RELATED: Lauren Cohan Reveals the Possibility of a Return to The Walking Dead

What can you tease about what Maggie's been up to?

Well, there's this lethal masked weapons guy. I think... that character is necessitated by some pretty gnarly things that she's probably been exposed to. So I know she went out to meet other communities, maybe to look for Georgie. But along the way, she definitely will have met some friendly and some very much not-so-friendly groups. I think there's a lot to unpack.

Will we get to see baby Hershel?

He's not so much a baby anymore, but I don't know. I know how my story begins. I don't know if in these six episodes we will see baby Hershel, but I am definitely hopeful.

Credit: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

How do you feel about the end game announcement?

Bittersweet feelings for sure. It's still about two years until that day is actually here. So part of me is like, "Well, I don't know how I'll really feel when we get there." I know I'll be extremely sad. And I know that it's surreal to think of an end coming to something that we've all been doing together that's been so defining culturally. ... To now have the job of knowing that we're finishing it together, it's huge. It's really cool you're not suddenly abruptly canceled. You're like, "Okay, cool. Now give it everything and go out with a huge bang." The community around like knowing what we're finishing and writing to the finish is really cool.

Filming is set to start this month. What's that going to look like giving COVID-19 protocols?

There'll be distance, obviously, between the actors. It'll look like we're closer together than we are. We're getting tested multiple times a week. There's going to be some sense of more scale to the number of characters in each thing. But they're just going to go more in-depth into each person's storyline. But it will still cumulatively be very, very big story.

The Walking Dead will return for six bonus episodes of season 10 in early 2021.