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The Walking Dead: Lauren Cohan on Maggie's big moment

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SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have watched Sunday’s episode of The Walking Dead, “Go Getters.”

“This is our home now, so you’ll have to call me by name. Not Marsha. Not dear. Not honey. Maggie. Maggie Rhee.”

BOOM! Delivered after serving Gregory a fist to the face, those words not only reestablished Maggie as a fighter, but as a leader as well — and the potential future head of her new community.

Sunday’s episode of The Walking Dead brought us to the Hilltop, where Maggie and Sasha grieved for their murdered men, defended the community from a nighttime zombie assault, and put the duplicitous current leader of their new home on serious notice. We spoke to Lauren Cohan to get her insight into this pivotal episode, as well as Maggie’s verbal and physical beatdown of her new nemesis.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I want to start right at the beginning of the episode, and ask what it was like for you to have that scene at the graves where we see you first approach Glenn’s grave and you leave the pocket watch there. What was it like — after filming that brutal premiere — to have to get yourself into that terrible state of mind all over again?

LAUREN COHAN: Yeah, it was pretty intense obviously coming from that episode, and then the change til now knowing that she had been unconscious. Maggie’s been out of it for a while, and coming to terms and coming to consciousness with what happened and wondering, “Is the baby okay?” Sasha’s been with her, but just waking up not knowing where she is and remembering everything that had happened, she is just trying to preserve some equilibrium for the baby and for her physical health. I think that that’s a lot of what happened, and then it’s how much Maggie’s really letting herself feel and remember and relive it. There’s a lot going on there.

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We then have this scene a little bit later where the Saviors have unleashed zombies into the Hilltop, and Maggie jumps up on the roof, starts giving instructions, and then gets down into the tractor to run over the car blaring the music. First off, did you get to drive the tractor at all?

Yeah, how fun was that?!

I would be joyriding all over the place.

True farm girl, I know. It was great. It was fun too, because it’s just this little homage moment to the Greene family. I just like that there’s this pocket full of tricks that you don’t think are going to come in too handy, that lo and behold actually do. Like, do we have someone who can drive a tractor across the field and crush a bunch of zombies and a gremlin?

Maggie has shown she’s a capable fighter over the past few seasons, but this is showing something different in that it displays that she can formulate and implement a plan on the spot, which is another step in her evolution as a leader, isn’t it?

Yeah, totally. And there’s this sort of a conflicted drive there because she knows she has to take it easy with the placenta tear that’s happening, but ultimately she can’t stand still if there’s something that can be done. So, yeah, I think it’s just instinctively knowing how we’re going to solve this problem and just jumping to it. And I like seeing the beginnings of her relationship with the other Hilltop residents that she is delegating to. It was a fun solution to find.

Tell us about your big knuckle sandwich to the face of Xander Berkeley, who plays Gregory. What was filming that like?

That was fun because I knew that was from the comic, and then I saw that in the script coming. I just thought, it’s so great that she’s sort of on this slow burn through the episode and she gets somewhere to direct the grief and the anger. And that freaking twerp, Gregory! [Laughs] I mean, I’m trying to use my PG words here. I think she’s trying to remain calm, do the right thing, and then she sees that he’s taken her dad’s and husband’s pocket watch off of the gravestone.

And then, what was it like to do? It was really fun! We actually did a lot of different takes where it was more like screaming at him, but I loved the sucker punch, and then just, “Here’s how you address everybody from now on in our home, and this is my name.”

Yeah, that’s really the moment of the episode when she does that, tells him to call her by her name, and says not just Maggie, but Maggie Rhee. That is total lump in the throat time.

I know. We’ll see through the season how Glenn lives in her, and it’s not easily put into one thing, but things like that which are so concrete are… I don’t know, I haven’t even processed the whole thing.

What did you think when you saw that “Maggie Rhee” line in the script?

F—ing awesome. Just so great. I think that what’s important here for her is that in the beginning, she goes to the grave and garners the strength that she can from where his body lays, communicates with him and the baby, creates a communication for them, and then even in the conversation with Sasha, not everything is lost, and it’s that Maggie thing. She’s just like, focus on the horizon, find strength from the loss, persevere and just keep doing that if you can until you find another solution. It’s just sort of keeping the next actionable task in your immediate sight. Just try to get through moment by moment. I think that’s really what’s happening here in this episode, and what continues to happen this season as everybody reels from these great losses of these two huge pillars in Glenn and Abraham.

Well, there’s another nice moment that happens, where Maggie gives Enid the pocket watch that her father had given Glenn. There’s a statement you make when you say, “We don’t need anything to remember him by. We have us.” Talk about that little relationship between Maggie and Enid that’s growing, because that’s pretty special.

I freaking love that scene, and the first one when she finds Enid and the balloons at the grave, and I just thought, that’s the story of these characters as Enid says, “Are you okay?” and Maggie says, “No, I’m not, but I’m going to be,” because how can I not try to find a way through when you’ve found your way to me to help me? It’s just a cyclical thing, which is that theme again with the grilled cheese and the tomato soup scene. And we have each other to remember them by, and that’s who we owe the survival and the perseverance to, is still standing in tribute to our fallen soldiers.

I owe that to my sisters in this scene and to Sasha and Enid. We don’t need to understand why we’re still here or why things happen, but we do need to give that to each other. I love all of this almost as much as I love the roller-skating between Carl and Enid. I think that’s the moment in there that I just thought, oh, my gosh, I love when we find those pure joys in the apocalypse.

You brought up Sasha. You and Sonequa Martin-Green have worked together for a few years now, but it’s been a while since you all had a meaty episode together. What was that like getting to work closely with her?

It was so awesome. I mean, I just love Sonequa so much and we’ve been so close forever off set and not had as many scenes together, but what’s really cool to see — and for audiences to see — is that they’ve had this parallel journey in her losing Bob and then her losing Tyreese and then in her losing Abraham. And they’re just sort of these sisters on the same journey knowing what they need, knowing how to give the other person what they need. Just thinking back to the railroad tracks with the three of them when they were with Bob and looking for Glenn, we’ve sort of seen the relationship. Occasionally we’ve refocused on that relationship and it’s awesome. I love working with Sonequa.

What can you say about what’s coming up for Maggie?

Generally, the punch she gave Gregory is probably the taste of what’s to come. We will see more of that Maggie. And then on an emotional level, we see this girl with responsibility to others who’s trying to live up to the people she learned from. Glenn is gone and Hershel is gone, and she’s sort of just trying to do what they would have expected and what they taught her to do and what they learned and what she learned with them. So, those are the shoes she’s stepping into now as she guides people that need her. Everybody’s got jobs to do and she’s stepping into those shoes.

Watch an exclusive video with Jeffrey Dean Morgan above, and for more Walking Dead intel, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.