12:23pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
'Walking Dead' Star to AMC on Lauren Cohan Salary Standoff: "Pay the Woman"
One of the new faces of The Walking Dead has sent a strong message to AMC about his co-star Lauren Cohan's salary standoff with the cable network.
Khary Payton, the erstwhile King Ezekiel on the zombie drama, turned to social media this week to support Cohan as she seeks a pay increase from AMC to return for season nine of TV's No. 1 drama. In a note posted on Instagram with a poignant photo of Cohan behind bars in character as Maggie, he wrote a simple yet stern caption: "Pay the woman."
The actress, who has played the key role of Maggie since season two of the zombie drama, has been locked in a months-long contract renegotiation with AMC. Cohan recently 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 the previously announced season nine of The Walking Dead. Sources say ABC and Whiskey producers ABC Studios were amenable to allowing the actress to return in a limited capacity to potentially close out Maggie's storyline. 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 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.
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. 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 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.
While production on season eight wrapped long ago, outgoing showrunner Scott M. Gimple — who was promoted to oversee all things Walking Dead for AMC — doesn't want to consider whether the forthcoming finale would provide a satisfying conclusion for Maggie should Cohan not return to the series at all. "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. When asked if he is confident that Cohan will be back in some capacity for season nine, Gimple said, "We're talking; I'm pretty positive. We're figuring it out. The timing could work well, so all good."
Check out Payton's post below.
For more Walking Dead coverage, head over to THR.com/WalkingDead.