8:00pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
'Walking Dead' Tees Up New Arc for Lauren Cohan Despite Lack of Contract
[This story contains spoilers from the season eight finale of AMC's The Walking Dead and the comic book series on which the show is based.]
The Walking Dead has big plans for Lauren Cohan, even if the actress — who has played Maggie since season two — does not yet have a contract to return for season nine.
During Sunday's season eight finale, the AMC zombie drama closed one chapter in its larger book, while also setting the stage for a few new stories to come, which include Maggie.
The finale teed up a new story for Maggie, who was furious that Rick (Andrew Lincoln) opted to not kill Negan — the man who murdered her husband, Glenn (Steven Yeun), before her eyes.
"No! He can't live!" Maggie screamed at Rick after a speech to the Saviors and Alexandrians in which he vowed to unite all the communities against their shared enemy in the undead. "We have to end it, Rick. We have to make it right," Maggie says with tears in her eyes.
While Rick had his reasons for keeping Negan alive — to honor his late son Carl (Chandler Riggs) and rebuild civilization in a world built on hope and peace — Maggie vowed to avenge Glenn's death. Her season eight story ends with a confession that Rick was right about saving the Saviors and rebuilding civilization. But, she tells Jesus (Tom Payne) and Daryl (Norman Reedus), that Rick and Michonne (Danai Gurira) were wrong to keep Negan alive. "We're going to bide our time, wait for our moment and then we're going to show him," Maggie tells Jesus and Daryl.
Cohan recently signed on as the female lead in the ABC action drama pilot Whiskey Cavalier, starring opposite Scandal's Scott Foley. Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that the network and Whiskey producers ABC Studios were amenable to allowing the actress to return to The Walking Dead in a limited capacity to potentially close out Maggie's storyline. Cohan's deal for Whiskey Cavalier does leave the door open for her to return to the series on a more limited 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.)
Of course, things could change if Whiskey does not go to series and should Cohan and AMC come to terms on a deal for the actress to return. But given the months-long negotiation that promoted Cohan to make herself available for pilots, that seems unlikely at this point. (Industry standard usually dictates that actors in series regular roles can do no more than three episodes of another show, unless another agreement is made in advance. This pilot season, many casting directors told THR that they've had to soften that policy in order to land top talent in a Peak TV era when many are juggling multiple projects.)
For his part, outgoing showrunner Scott M. Gimple told THR ahead of Sunday's season eight finale that news on Cohan's front would be coming "soon." He told THR in March that he was "pretty positive" both sides could come to an agreement for Cohan to return in some capacity. "We're talking; I'm pretty positive. We're figuring it out. The timing could work well, so all good," he said.
Click here to read our full analysis on the season eight finale. Stay tuned to THR.com/WalkingDead for interviews with Gimple, Kirkman, Lincoln and Morgan plus more analysis.