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 411mania » Movies » Columns

411mania Interviews: Lauren Cohan (The Walking Dead)
Posted by Al Norton on 11.25.2012

Lauren Cohan has guested on Modern Family and CSI: NY, with high profile multi-episode runs on Supernatural and The Vampire Diaries, but it's her role as Maggie on AMC's record breaking drama The Walking Dead that has given her talents their largest and best showcase.

Al Norton: Do you remember what you thought when you first read the script for Killer Within?

Lauren Cohan: Definitely, they are burned into my memory. We had finished work very late that night and I was going to go straight to sleep but then the script came though and I thought I'd give it a quick read, and I ended up completely unable to sleep, totally distraught. Luckily we all have each other so we end up getting on the phone with each other and saying, "this is actually really going to happen."

It's great television and I don't think anyone expected…It was like a wake; it was like a wake at work for three episodes, knowing it was coming and then shooting it, plus the time processing everything.

Al Norton: How do you prepare to shoot something that intense and gut wrenching without worrying you are going to over prepare and not seem natural?

Lauren Cohan: That's a good question; it's pretty much the same role for me no matter the context. I just try to forget everything about the people I working with and just focus on the scene, and I couldn't have been luckier to have two better scene partners than Sarah (Wayne Callies) and Chandler (Riggs). Also, our crew has a way of making themselves invisible during those sort of scenes, which is a huge asset. It was an incredibly special connection the three of us had during the scene; you can't do those things without trust and without everybody really, really going there.

I could hardly watch the episode. I don't always watch them but that one I did try to…I knew what was coming and I was still an absolute wreck. But hey, it was good we made grown men cry (laughing).

Al Norton: The audience had an interesting relationship with Lori as a character, and at times there was a bit of a love/hate thing going on; can you tell a little bit about the other side of that, what it was like to work with Sarah (Wayne Callies)?

Lauren Cohan: Sarah is an amazing actress and such a deep thinking, incredibly strong woman, and all of that comes though in her character. Power to her and to everybody watching to be stimulated by that because that's real and that's what makes the show so good, that it's bringing that stimulation and that reality to everyone. When she's giving her speech her Chandler and telling him, "don't do wrong, don't do wrong in this world", I literally have these flashes of everything she's thinking at the time. Doing that scene was a spiritual experience for all of us.

Al Norton: I know this will sound like I'm making a joke but when you get a new script do you flip through to make sure you make it out alive?

Lauren Cohan: No, I don't really think in that way. I stay as present as possible and think that the only thing I can do is do justice to this voyage that Maggie is taking and bring whatever I can to that, to be her in that moment. Anything else just takes me out of doing my job. Obviously I don't want to get killed (laughing). We joke about it, we joke about misbehaving and not wanting to step out of line.

As an actor you know everything is not forever, even if you're on a series for 10 years, but when you do a movie you're on it for two or three months and you form these hard and fast friendships, and it's difficult to say goodbye but at the same time it's difficult to stay in touch after because hopefully you're all off doing your next thing. It's the life; it's the best job but it's tricky sometimes. Feels a bit like Dickens there. It's a crazy job (laughing), The Walking Dead specifically.

Al Norton: How much different is Maggie now than who you thought she was when you read the first script she was in?

Lauren Cohan: The thing I was most aware of when I read the first script last year was her youth and her spirituality and her interest in reaching out and connecting. She knew in what ways she could help save this group and that's the thing that has continued as she is stepping up to her full potential now. I just love playing this character, she is so brave and vulnerable and she fires guns and wields machetes (laughing).

Everything about this show is so life and death and so fundamental, it's affected my life very positively.

Al Norton: The make-up people on the show get a ton of well deserved praise but one of the things on the show that doesn't get enough press is the incredible work done by the people in set design.

Lauren Cohan: I know! Incredible stuff, especially the prison; that prison is our studio. It was literally transformed in two months by Grace Walker, who's in charge of production design for us – and yes, his real last name is Walker – and the work is at absolutely epic proportions. That prison, the farm house; the warmth of the coziness of the farm house, you could almost feel it breathing.

Al Norton: What's your interaction been like with the show's very passionate fan base?

Lauren Cohan: Awesome, really awesome. I love connecting with people on Twitter. I'm so inspired by how many people watch the show and how so many different people are affected the same way; it brings out the absolute best in people. It's such a violent show but it brings out the best in people, especially an episode like Killer Within, it's so healthy for us to have that sort of exhausting emotional release that the show gave.

It's a big show that is entertaining and fun that looks at the big questions and brings folks from every race, every age, every background together in a discourse over it, and I can't think of anything more amazing and I'm so glad I'm a part of it. We all are.

Al Norton: Your resume has a bit of a recurring theme to it, with The Walking Dead and Supernatural and The Vampire Diaries and even to a certain extent Chuck; is it sheer coincidence or are you drawn to this?

Lauren Cohan: No, I'm definitely drawn to this. Aside from this I'd say that period drama was one of my other favorite genres to work in. I like the heightened reality and I like sci-fi. I guess I'm just attracted to good people, too. I remember going on my audition to Chuck and meeting those producers and the warmth in the room helped bring out the best in me. It really comes down to the people, so it's really a mix of the people and the story…What do I know, maybe it is just coincidence (laughing)…

When I was a kid I watched Star Trek a lot, and my Mom was a complete trekkie. She didn't dress up or anything but she used to do the funniest things when we were kids; she had Spock ears and she'd put them on but keep them hidden under her ears and then be cooking dinner and really subtly tuck her hair behind her ear.

Al Norton: Can you preview the rest of the season for me?

Lauren Cohan: You're going to see the theme of the individual versus the whole, and if you can really even draw that line anymore. That's the biggest part of the season. The collision between Woodbury and the Prison is going to be epic. Maggie and Glenn become a major rock in the storyline. It's really lovely that we get to have all this heart with those two characters amidst this really dark world.

Don't miss The Walking Dead, Sundays at 9pm on AMC


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