7:00pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
'Walking Dead's' Lauren Cohan on Maggie's Grieving Process, Show's New Addition
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the "Them" episode of AMC's The Walking Dead.]
It was finally time for the group to grieve during Sunday's episode of AMC's The Walking Dead.
Following the tragic and unexpected deaths of Beth (Emily Kinney) and Tyreese (Chad L. Coleman), their siblings Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) — as well as the rest of the survivors including Daryl (Norman Reedus) — were forced to deal with their grief while continuing their shelter-less trek to Washington.
Without a roof over their heads and, after their van runs out of gas, the beleaguered survivors each experienced grief in their own way. Maggie had almost a complete emotional breakdown and could barely muster the strength to fight. Sasha was pissed and just wanted to storm ahead and kill walkers — endangering the group when she broke formation during an attack. Daryl, meanwhile, emotionally — and often physically — separated himself from the pack.
After finding shelter from a massive storm in a barn, Maggie and Sasha venture out the next morning and see a sea of damage — realizing they are lucky to live to see another day. Or as Rick shared, accepting their fate as the "walking dead" and fighting until they're able to begin living again.
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Cohan to discuss Maggie's grieving process — and why it took so long — as well as what to expect from Aaron (new series regular Ross Marquand), the mysterious guy who introduces himself in the closing moments of the episode. (For more on Aaron, click here.)
Maggie finally gets her time to grieve for Beth. Why do you think it took her this long to express that emotion?
When Beth was kidnapped, she was taken in a car in the middle of the night in an unknown direction and it would have endangered the rest of the group to search for her. There was a conversation that was never seen onscreen — that people would have liked to have seen now in hindsight — [explaining] the group's choice. Maggie's choice — the most rational choice at the time — was to accept the likelihood that Beth having survived was very small. In this episode, what we finally get to see is that it's OK to actually follow your heart and make an unreasonable decision. This is the fallout from that. As Lauren, [my attitude would have been] "Screw everything, you're going to go and you're going to find your sister." There are a million logical reasons why it did not make sense to go on a blind chase in the dead of night to try to find Beth but really, that's not the way the human heart works.
Her approach to grieving is very different from that of Sasha, who just wants to fight — even if it puts the group at risk.
What we see in this episode is definitely the symptom of suppressing your emotions. Sasha's unreasonable, but there is not a single person in the group who doesn't have understanding and compassion for her — but she does endanger the whole group. Somebody asked me what the reaction would have been if Sasha's behavior had caused someone in the group to be killed — would somebody have killed Sasha? Absolutely not. She's literally having another breakdown. Everybody in this group is actually at the point of a nervous breakdown, they just don't necessarily have the energy to have it.
Maggie bonds with Sasha and Daryl. How do their grieving processes differ?
Everybody is feeling guilt, be it survivor's guilt or just that they feel they could have done more. What breaks Maggie out of the grief coma that she's in is that she can still help Sasha. The tangible thing is that she can still help Daryl and that they actually can all help each other. When the barn is being stormed by walkers they get this wakening jolt that they need to band together in order to survive and that just breaks the spell.
I interpreted that walker barn-storming as a dream that Maggie had that helped her realize that she's still part of something and had she not pitched in to help Daryl, who knows if they would have survived that.
I love that! That's really interesting because we do go from laying down as a group having that fireside discussion to presumably going into sleep. That's amazing! I didn't even think that. What if it is a dream? At the end of the day, even if it is a curse, it's a question of, if there is a God, you have to wake up and say, "I still have life." When they wake up and Maggie and Sasha walk out the door and see the destruction and realize that it's an absolute impossibility that the barn would not have been floored — so what does that mean? Whether or not you understand it, that you need to prevail — and the moment that we have with Maggie and Carol solidifies that, too. Some people just can't give up. They don't know how.
Will Maggie's shared grief with Daryl and Sasha create a rift between her and Glenn?
Beth was his family, too. The reason I saw more of a bond between Maggie, Daryl and Sasha in that moment is because it was more of a shared experience, especially with Maggie and Sasha. Maggie pulled Sasha out of her grief once with Tyreese when Maggie was searching for Glenn. I think there is a sisterly bond between those two and it's like soldiers, in a way, and they're at war. There's this unspoken compassion between them. Maggie wakes up and she did think there was no point in going on, but now there is another morning. It's a new day. There is this rhythm that you just have to let yourself be a part of and not know the answers but not stop because you don't know what's next.
Rick shares a story from his grandfather — that they're all the "walking dead" until they aren't. Is that something Maggie believes?
There's one moment where Maggie wakes up and looks at Judith and she has this moment where she feels, "If this child can grow up only knowing that this is normality, who am I to not support the best interests of this child?" She realizes that the group can accept this as a reality and can prevail and still live the best possible life in this crazy world if it all of a sudden isn't really so crazy anymore because it's just normal. When Rick says, "We go to war and then we get to live," that, coupled with this complete inability to grasp why these cruel things seem to happen — including saving Beth being just out of your grasp, or just the twist of Beth actually being alive and her not being able to comprehend that — that Maggie hears that we go through these things and we suffer through things and we don't know why this has been our fate. We don't know why we're like the last scraps of humans that are actually even alive or here, for all we know, but it is the case, and that's an agreement that bonds this group. For Maggie, it makes the whole thing so interesting: Sometimes we just don't know why we keep doing the thing we're doing, but we're compelled to survive and you're compelled to keep moving.
Aaron, a recruiter from the comics, is introduced at the end of the episode. Is he the "friend" who left the water for the group?
We are going to reveal that in the next episode. All we know about him now is that he says, "I'm a friend." I love that he looks like a Boy Scout leader but who knows, he may be a danger or he may not be. Or he may be something of a guardian angel to the group at this juncture.
After experiencing the dangers of other survivors at Woodbury with the Governor, and Terminus with Gareth, how might Maggie and Sasha deal with Aaron's arrival?
It's interesting because we needed what happens in this episode for the group to get so low — even for Maggie to get so hopeless, which is something we don't really see happening in her — for the possibility of what Aaron is offering to be believable, and for the group to be interested in what he offers. They would be so much more cynical after Terminus and Woodbury and everything if they weren't at the absolute lowest of the lowest of the low right now.
What he's offering could mean sanctuary — at the Alexandria Safe-Zone, the longest-running community in the comics. How might what we see be different than the comics?
What Aaron is offering will become a very big conversation for the group. And it will divide people in their opinions of him and in terms of what to do.
After this episode, who would want to stay out in the road?!
It's not who you'd expect. The introduction of Aaron brings about some unexpected sides of characters you think that you already knew. Those who are skeptical definitely put Aaron to the test and, despite the need for sanctuary, we still have members of the group that are reticent to trust.
What did you think of Sunday's episode? Do you trust Aaron? Sound off in the comments below. The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.