'Walking Dead' Boss "Pretty Positive" Lauren Cohan Will Return

The Walking Dead Still - Lauren Cohan as Maggie - H Publicity 2018
Gene Page/AMC

The Walking Dead showrunner Scott M. Gimple is optimistic that talks between AMC and star Lauren Cohan will work out for the best.

The actress, who has played Maggie since season two of the zombie drama, has been locked in a months-long contract renegotiation with AMC. Cohan last week signed on as the female lead in the ABC action drama pilot Whiskey Cavalier, starring opposite Scott Foley. She does not currently have a contract to return for season nine of The Walking Dead.

While production on season eight wrapped long ago, Gimple doesn't even want to entertain the thought about whether the finale would provide a satisfying conclusion for Maggie should Cohan not return to the series in any capacity. 

"I wouldn't want to say that because we're talking and figuring it out," he told The Hollywood Reporter days after Cohan's casting broke.

Gimple, who will step down as showrunner at the end of season eight and take on a new role as chief content officer of The Walking Dead in a larger role with AMC, pointed to the show's history of working around scheduling with its stars, past and present. Danai Gurira, for example, filmed Marvel's Black Panther during hiatus from the zombie drama with her character Michonne's season-eight screen time seeing no impact. Corey Hawkins, who briefly played comic book character Heath, was not written out of the series when he went on to star on Fox's since-canceled 24: Legacy, with the door open for the actor to return to the franchise. 

"These things do happen," Gimple said of the contract standoff. "We've had people do other shows and other gigantic movies that take America by storm. We're figuring it out with each other and trying to let people be able to do other things and stick around. I shan't even entertain the thought."

Still, sources say both sides remain far apart. Sources told THR that Cohan — who was among the most in-demand actresses and fielded multiple offers this broadcast pilot season — had been actively looking for her next role as she battled AMC over her season nine salary. Sources say the actress and her agents are not happy with the offers that have been on the table from the cabler. Although Cohan is not seeking salary parity with male leads Andrew Lincoln (Rick) and Norman Reedus (Daryl), insiders suggest that she was not trying to use the pilot casting process to force AMC's hand as the actress' camp remains frustrated by AMC's "lowball" offers. Other sources note AMC has made "aggressive offers" to re-sign Cohan for season nine.

Still, the situation could play out in several ways: Cohan leaves The Walking Dead after season eight; she re-signs to return for season nine as a regular; Whiskey Cavalier moves forward and Cohan either returns for a handful of TWD episodes or walks away from the zombie franchise entirely; or the pilot doesn't go to series and the actress opts to leave or return in either a full-time or limited capacity. Cohan's deal for Whiskey Cavalier — in which she plays a badass CIA operative named Francesca "Frankie" Trowbridge — does leave the door open for her to return to TWD in a recurring basis should she and AMC close the gap and agree to a new deal. Walking Dead typically begins production on new seasons in the spring when most broadcast shows have already wrapped.

It's also worth noting that Maggie remains a key part of The Walking Dead comics, upon which the AMC series is based. Although given the show's recent decision to kill off Carl (Chandler Riggs), being alive and a key character in the source material doesn't seem to carry the same weight it once did.

Sums up Gimple when asked if he is confident that Cohan will be back in some capacity for season nine: "We're talking; I'm pretty positive. We're figuring it out. The timing could work well, so all good."

Click here for Gimple's thoughts on Sunday's surprising midseason premiere.