There is so much going on in season 9 of The Walking Dead, which premieres Oct. 7 on AMC. There are new people coming, and familiar faces going. There is a time-jump with a brand-new look for the show. And as showrunner Angela Kang told us, there will also be an emphasis on female leadership. With that in mind, we spoke with Lauren Cohan about the Maggie and Michonne dynamic in season 9, and it clearly is one to keep an eye on.

But we also went to the other woman in that dynamic duo — Danai Gurira — to get her take on what to expect in that relationship as well as everything else on tap in the upcoming season. Gurira is also excited to share the unique portrayal that will be on display when The Walking Dead shows two powerful women finding a way to get along even if they don’t always agree on everything, especially when other shows “don’t really explore women who respect each other, who respect each other’s power, each other’s choices, respect each other in so many ways, but are not seeing eye to eye on major fundamental issues.” Read on for more.

Credit: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: did that feel like to have such a dramatic sort of story shift at the start of the season for once?
DANAI GURIRA: I actually thought it was very, very refreshing. It was new and challenging to step into and it keeps everything really fresh and interesting. You’re kind of getting to step through time a bit, it was brand new for us and it was really cool to sort of navigate what that journey has been what the time comprised and how we have shifted during that time, it really did allow for a real fresh start.

Especially after how bogged down we were as a result of the war. Now war is war; it was hard for the characters in the war and hard moving through the pain of the war and so it was cool because we felt we were in synchronicity with, the characters. They got to start anew and we got to start something anew with them by being further in time then we were once we finally defeated our foe. That was a big part of it, that our foe was defeated. That allowed for that hard bogged-down time to shift in a way that was very exciting to get in to for the characters. It felt hopeful, fresh, and new.

What is the show like totally in season 9? How do you describe the mood or feel?
There is a lot of movement in this because truth is kind of impossible in the sense of the world we are now in. Things can go any which way, so it feels very hopeful and volatile at the same time, so there is a healing energy to this season and to this sort of interaction that we have — not only with the world we’re in, but how we’re adapting to it, and also with the people we’ve known and gone through everything with. Who do we become? And the terrain shifts and as our struggles shift. There’s a very interesting hopeful yet volatile energy to the season. It’s really fulfilling.

Let’s talk about Michonne. They are trying to build these communities up after the time jump but maybe not everyone is on the same page. Where is her head at the start of season 9?
Definitely there is a lot of hopeful determination in the show, and that is something that is definitely driving her when we meet her in the first episode. Even after they found out Eugene was lying, she still pushed for them to go to DC and had that dream that there has to be a way towards a new beginning, there has to be a way to build again. Now at the beginning of this season, we’re in the moment of that hopefulness. So she’s really very, very energized with hopeful determination. And really working her butt off in that regard.

But you know, things happen. At the core of Michonne, there’s a ton of pragmatism as well. And we’ll see how that plays out and shifts a lot of things. She’s a pragmatist as well as a hopeful determined member of the leadership of the group. In the attempt to build things, you see her trying to figure out what that is gonna look like. She gets to use her mind in a way that you don’t really get to use when you’re just fighting. So that’s another side of her that I think comes out more as we’re stepping into a new era.

I was talking to Lauren Cohan about Maggie and Michonne maybe not seeing completely eye-to-eye in season 9. How would you describe the relationship moving ahead?
You can see that building up from the end of season 8, in the sense of where it ends up. Michonne is very much alongside Rick in the decisions made around Negan and the various things. There’s definitely already a thing set up of some tension between the characters. So I think it’s really cool that these women have been through many things together, they’re very, very close, and I love the navigation of really exploring female friendships and connections this way, because I don’t think you get to see it done the way we get to do it. You don’t see it very often with female friendships. They don’t really explore women who respect each other, who respect each other’s power, each other’s choices, respect each other in so many ways, but are not seeing eye to eye on major fundamental issues. What does that look like? And it is really enjoyable to navigate that with Lauren. Very, very interesting, and very enjoyable.

Angela Kang has taken over as showrunner. She’s been with the show since season 2. Have you noticed any differences?
Yeah, with the changing of any human being, obviously there are things that’ll shift. She’s wonderful. She’s always been an extremely fantastic writer, one that is favorite of all of us. This arc of story that she is creating, it’s really exciting. And fresh, and unexpected, and really right. She’s very collaborative, very open. She’s got really good ideas and thoughts, and she’s like, “Well, you’ve been living in character. Talk to me about that,” and it’s really cool to have creative discussions with her. It’s really exciting. She’s fantastic and we’re having a really good time with her.

Alright, so be honest with me, how much of your horse-riding skills did you retain from season 4?
Some. But the key one is just understanding that the horse has to at some point feel like you know what you’re doing. So that’s one thing I remember, is they’re really reading your energy. The rest is almost learning from scratch, because there’s just so much. Each horse is different. So that’s the one thing I remember, is I have to at some point get on that horse and make him feel confident in me.

For more Walking Dead scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

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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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