By Dalton Ross
October 07, 2014 at 03:00 PM EDT
Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC
  • TV Show

Lauren Cohan has been having nightmares lately. It seems the move back to filming more in the city for season 5 of The Walking Dead has been messing with her mind and causing her to imagine doomsday scenarios in her sleep. But as disturbing as that sounds, there is plenty that Cohan is excited about when it comes to the return of The Walking Dead on Sunday, Oct. 12 — starting with a premiere that she promises is “the most action packed episode this show has ever seen.” Read on as the woman who plays Maggie Greene lets loose on what to expect coming up. (Click through both pages to read the entire interview.)

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So we know you guys at some point are going to learn about Abraham and Eugene’s mission to Washington to try to cure the zombie plague. How does Maggie feel about that? Is she on board with the trip?

LAUREN COHAN: It’s multifaceted, her feelings about this. Because one part of Maggie’s problem is that she still hasn’t found Beth. And the scraps of information she has don’t’t really give her anywhere to begin looking for her. But it gives Maggie hope, even though she doesn’t know still what direction to go in. And so Maggie has this sort of calm resolve about her, having overcome the mission of finding Glenn, and overcoming the impossible by finding him and the rest of the group.

The next challenge does feel achievable, so that’s one thing of them being back together, and then this idea that maybe there’s a cure, something that’s actually worth fighting for, is extremely exciting for her. And they obviously have reservations because Eugene is a really odd character and it’s hard for the group to get a read on him, but as time progresses, it’s one of the only tangible things they have to fight for. And Maggie’s been one for sort of keeping on the mission. And Maggie’s found this sort of pragmatic side that I think Hershel left with both of the Greene sisters — this idea that everybody has a job to do. And when you’re in this sort of directionless world, what’s my job going to be? You just grab it and hold on tight. And I think that’s what we really saw come out for her last season, was really Maggie on her own, and how did she focus her energy? And Washington definitely offers up another opportunity for that.

Her father is dead, she doesn’t know where the heck Beth is, — could be dead as well as far as she knows. How is Maggie dealing with the loss of her family?

To be honest with you, we haven’t seen her process that yet, and I think she’s a little in denial of her grief is how I’ve read it, because she perseveres with positive expectations. But we haven’t seen the processing of Hershel’s loss, we haven’t seen that process with Beth. But when she was looking for Glenn—I know a lot of people of had questions about that last season—Glenn’s going to Terminus, and by the way Beth, you too. And it’s funny because I think when Scott Gimple and I talked about it, we hoped it would be obvious that when Maggie thinks of Glenn, she thinks of him as her protector and that he also found her sister, and everybody was together. Also that Beth was able-bodied at the end of last season when we saw her disappear, we hoped that maybe she’d gone and hidden somewhere or was with another part of the group. But Glenn was completely weak and almost disabled, with just getting over the sickness that the whole prison  had, so I think there was a little bit more urgency and desperation to finding him because he could’ve collapsed or been defenseless or something somewhere. I think that Maggie, knowing her sister, hoped that she’d also found her sister with another group.

But it’s definitely a big MO right from the top of this season: the belief, even if she’s fooling herself, that her sister’s out there and she’s okay. But we really haven’t really seen Maggie process. She’s stomached the loss of her father, and she’s not really thinking about it too much, and she kind of can’t think about it — that she’ll never see her sister again, and her father’s dead, and that she really has no family left. She was such a stable symbol in the apocalypse, with a sanctuary and salvation for the group from Atlanta, and they lose the farm, and then she loses her family, and Otis, Patricia, Jimmy, everybody, and now Hershel and Beth. And so she can’t really admit yet that possibly everything is gone. And it’s pretty interesting because we see her just, like, strong and calm at the top of everything. It’s just the way that things have to be. And so it’s almost like hopeful until proven otherwise. And so if and when it’s disproven, that’s going to be a hell of a crash for her

What about Tara? Rick saw Tara on the other side of that fence with the guy who beheaded Maggie’s dad. How’s that gonna play out?

The thing I’ve enjoyed about this year is seeing Maggie deal with situations sort of in the footsteps of her father, and I think that’s how we’ve carried on, and that’s sort of how we speak on the loss of Hershel is seeing his character through his daughters. So we’ll see Maggie come face to face with some things, and it’s interesting to see the kind of woman she’s becoming in the face of those conflicts. That’s all I can say about that.

Glenn and Maggie seem like they’re in pretty good shape — I mean other than the obvious drawback of being locked in a train car.

Yeah, they’re pretty rock solid. It’s almost like you can take the whole span of a marriage, in terms of the challenges and the ups and downs a couple can go through, and you see them go through that in seven months, or however long it’s been. But they are stronger than ever. It’s just so fun to me to see that you don’t need to show people constantly holding hands, They have that unspoken communication. Finding each other spoke so much to their connection. Knowing that the other one would be there, would be in Terminus and they would somehow find their way to the same place.

So I think that we’re not going to see a lot of rockiness between Maggie and Glenn, but I think we are going to see a depth in that relationship. I love playing that relationship so much. It’s just a rock and roll couple that really have each other’s backs and they’re both badass and it’s not about one being the protector of the other. It’s just about the support from each making them so strong, both separately and together. But in terms of character development, we learn a lot more about them each as individuals this year, which has been great. You know, it’s an independent togetherness. What was Gwyneth Paltrow’s thing? Conscious uncoupling? Independent togetherness? [Laughs]

NEXT: Cohan on warning her castmates in zombie apocalypse nightmares

Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

What’s it like having the whole gang back together again after last season?

You took the words right out of my mouth. We’ve actually been saying it’s so good for us to see the band back together. I got to see a few good chunks of episode 1, and it just gives me goosebumps when I watch it sometimes because of everything these people have been through, and yet still they find their way back to each other sometimes. And what’s coming in the first episode, it’s the most action packed episode this show has ever seen, and it is so full of heart. I mean, it makes you feel like you can do anything. Like when you see the travails that everybody overcomes, it just literally inspires. And I read the script, and I acted the episode, and I’ve seen the episode, and I still feel like such a fan of the journey that it takes you on. I think Scott Gimple said it so well: People ask about this show and say that it’s so gory and it’s about zombies and death and everything, but it’s really one of the most hopeful shows I’ve ever seen. That it is amongst this world, and what these people are able to attain and just how woven together their lives have become, and how they relentlessly survive. It’s just a really, really inspiring episode. It just makes you wanna kick butt, it’s really cool.

What’s it like shooting in the city and getting back to that urban terror we saw in season 1?

It’s pretty awesome actually. A lot of the stuff has been happening when we were in Atlanta proper, with the big, big stunts. So that adds a level of glamor that we don’t always get on the show. I don’t know what else I can say… it beats having to commute everyday.

Does it give off a different vibe that we haven’t seen in a while?

Yes, I think it makes it feel a little more present. It makes it feel more real when we’re shooting in the city. And when you’re in Senoi or some place that’s very far removed from the hustle and bustle of city life, and you think, of course it would be quiet because that’s what quiet places are like. But when you’re actually shooting this in Atlanta it sort of just hits you on a whole new level because seeing a big busy street cleared or closed down for us to shoot on, seeing empty upside down, burnt-out cars, and not much in the way of people, but every other sign of life, like modern houses and skyscrapers and everything —it reminds me of the opening of 28 Days Later.

Interestingly, when I first joined the show I did have a few nightmares just about zombies themselves. And then in the last couple months I’ve had my first real apocalypse nightmares. I don’t know if that’s because we’re now shooting in the city, or just what’s changed, but now it’s this sense of, like, “I know there’s an apocalypse, and nobody will flippin’ believe me.” And in my dreams I’m walking up to people and sometimes it’s people I don’t know. And sometimes it’s, like, Melissa McBride, but she’s sitting in a café and she has no idea there’s actually an apocalypse. And I throw her espresso out the window and I look at her and I shake her shoulders saying, “What are you doing sitting here?! There’s an apocalypse! Everyone’s dead and they’re walking around — you have to go!” It’s super surreal. So it’s crazy, and there’s always somebody with me and I don’t know who it is, and at the end of the dream I look and it’s my dog sitter or somebody, and I’m like, “You don’t know either? Come on people, let’s go!” [Laughs]

Have you guys had to deal with a lot of fans trying to get a glimpse or getting in the way while you guys are filming?

People do definitely watch, and sometimes — I’m glad because it might an isolated big event, like an explosion or something that happened, and I’m like well, it doesn’t necessarily give away story, but the funniest part is really these websites and fan sites — they literally fabricate these entire scenarios around why they saw this car, and they build it into this whole thing and they put fake pages of scripts that are “ found,” full of spelling errors. I mean it’s just ridiculous. You’ll be on the roadside, and even if you’re in the middle of nowhere there’s people in the trees on the other side of the road, and you can’t make them leave — it’s public property. But I don’t know, you try to say your dialog quietly. [Laughs]

Check out our ‘Walking Dead: One-Minute Refresher ‘below. And for more ‘Walking Dead’ scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

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