The Walking Dead
Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

So, you just watched your father have his head cut off. Your boyfriend recently was about one more cough away from death himself, and who knows where the hell he is now. Your home has been totaled by a tank and a herd of flesh-eating zombies. And now — somehow, someway — you have to keep yourself alive. That’s where things stand for Maggie Greene when The Walking Dead returns Sunday night for the last eight episodes of season 4. We spoke with Lauren Cohan (who also will be guest-starring soon on Archer) to get some insight into what’s going on in Maggie’s head as the action picks back up. The actress tells us what’s in store while also recounting the emotional goodbye to her on-screen father. (Also make sure to check out our ‘Walking Dead’ preview interviews with Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Danai Gurira, and producers Scott Gimple and Robert Kirkman.)

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So, Lauren, we pick things up here as the prison is falling and everyone is seeking shelter and safety. What does that mean for Maggie?

LAUREN COHAN: All that Maggie knows right now is that she has lost her father, maybe her sister, maybe her husband. We are going to see her battling and be the most alone we’ve ever seen her. Not necessarily completely alone, but at times we’ll see her the most alone she’s been. How she’s going to survive by herself? It’s going to be very scary. They’re not at the prison anymore.

EW: What’s the aftermath for her? Obviously she’s lost family members before, but seeing her father executed in front of her, that can’t be easy.

COHAN: No, it’s so needless. And I think it drives the whole second half of the season for her because we never see her process anything. But by virtue of her actions you can tell that she’s processing. Maggie doesn’t really know where any of her people are right now. That drives the whole back half of the season for her. And for everyone. She’s not getting the chance or the time to process. But it’s going to be filthy. This is definitely going to be the goriest yet.

EW: Where is she going from here in these next eight episodes?

COHAN: You really see how far she can go for what she is fighting for and for the things she holds dear. This is the first time you see Maggie on her own, and with everything that she’s learned and the evolution of this character, how prepared she is for this world. And it turns out she’s pretty prepared. [Laughs] But its been an insane adventure, a turn in the story that none of us anticipated. All these episodes are gems, complete gems. It’s been a real treat for all of us. It’s been really tense. And we’ve gotten to explore our characters in different situations with different people sometimes, and sometimes with no one. It’s been a great opportunity to test our mettle.

EW: Generally we’ve seen you in big groups. Is it nice having these smaller stories in terms of mixing it up?

COHAN: It’s interesting because when you look at the scope of the show, you get really familiar with Maggie’s relationships with Hershel and Glenn and Beth and Sasha and Tyreese, and now I think we have a whole new perspective on these characters. And as actors we’ve gotten the chance to get to know them better.

EW: I’m assuming these episodes will feel a bit different merely by the fact that you’re leaving the prison.

COHAN: Yeah, we have no boundaries. We have no protection. We have little-to-no weaponry. We don’t even have places to sleep. It’s very dangerous. There are more walkers. There are people that you want to be able to trust but can’t out there. I won’t say anything about that. Tonally, each episode goes into its own little wormhole. You don’t find out what happens to some of these characters for a few episodes at least and some characters much longer than that. It’s some of the best storytelling and writing that we’ve had on the show yet.

EW: The prison set was your home for the past year and a half. What’s it feel like for you as an actress to be out and about more?

COHAN: It’s really interesting because our work schedule completely changed. It was like being in a new location because we’d work for a few weeks and then start again somewhere completely different. Our poor prison went bye-bye. I mean, I didn’t build it, but a lot of work went into it.

EW: I know it’s tough for you guys when a fellow actor gets killed off. What was it like having to say goodbye to Scott Wilson?

COHAN: This was the worst one. Scott is like our sage. He is like our dad. Definitely a mentor. So that scene when we shot it, Emily and I were up at the fence, and the group was behind us, and down at the bottom of the field was Scott. But then when we did our coverage, Scott came up and stood just on the other side of the fence to us. And we’re beginning the scene, and right before it happens he says, “I love you girls” and he looked at us. It wasn’t Hershel saying anything. It was Scott Wilson telling me and Emily how much this had meant to him and we love him. When he said, “I love you,” I was just there. It was not a difficult scene to emote. Robert Kirkman made a great point when we did The Talking Dead. He said, “The greater the importance of the character, the more brutal their death.” That’s definitely true with Scott. It was the most brutal death for one of the most important characters on this show, and one of the most important symbols of hope and goodness. This will be a big propelling factor in the second half of the season. How do we hold onto that moral high ground that Herschel represented and still survive? It’s an ugly, ugly world. Losing your dad is one thing, but the whole combination of this has been very tough for this whole group. It makes you wonder why people keep going. It was crazy too, because when he died in episode 8, we didn’t know what was going to come next, but this one act really is the driving force behind the whole second half. It’s so difficult to justify any character deaths in this show, so I’m not going to try. It sucks. It always sucks. You get so close on this show, but then no one is ever safe.

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The Walking Dead

AMC's zombie thriller, based on the classic comic book serial created by Robert Kirkman.

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