There were a lot of things to be excited about with the planned season 10 finale of The Walking Dead, which finally aired Oct. 4 after a six-month delay to due COVID-19. And at the top of the list was the return of Lauren Cohan's Maggie. A mainstay since season 2, Cohan left the series during season 9 to star in ABC's fun and feisty Whiskey Cavalier, but after that show's unfortunate cancellation, she returned to the zombie apocalypse, beginning with "A Certain Doom." And not a moment too soon, it seems, especially for the characters on screen, as Maggie saved Father Gabriel in the nick of time.

As pleased as Gabriel was to see his old friend, the cast and crew were just as thrilled to have Cohan back. "Lauren and I have always bonded," showrunner Angela Kang told EW. "She's so lovely and so fun to work with. She just brings such energy and optimism and positivity to our set. So we'd been trying to work out, 'How and when can you come back?' And then she just stepped on set and it was like no time had passed at all. So it was really great."

What was it like for Cohan to return to her old stomping grounds? And while we saw Maggie's happy reunion with Judith and others, what happens when she gets alone in a room with the man who viciously murdered her husband? We spoke to Cohan about what it was like off screen, what happened on screen, and the possibility of even more Maggie after The Walking Dead ends.

The Walking Dead
Credit: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I would ask what it was like being back on set for your big onscreen return, but you actually came back to set once before this episode to shadow a director, right?

LAUREN COHAN: I was there for about six weeks before we started filming because I was shadowing Daisy Mayer, who's directed a couple of our episodes. She actually came out to Prague and directed some episodes of Whiskey Cavalier. So she and I had developed a friendship. And I would love to direct when there's room in my mental space from acting. And so I just tagged along and followed Daisy and just learned a huge amount. And it was obviously doubly efficient because I got to catch up with everybody and just get back into the zone, get back into the whole Georgia feel of things. So to watch the beast of The Walking Dead and what it takes to direct these episodes was amazing.

Other actors in the Walking Dead family like Michael Cudlitz, Colman Domingo, and now Lennie James have directed episodes, and I know Andrew Lincoln shadowed as well. So you think at some point maybe you might want to go behind the camera there?

One hundred percent. And to be honest with you, even during this whole COVID time, that's where my attention has been. I watch shows differently. I watch everything and have just been developing ideas and thinking about things, because to me it's just about the creative outlet of this medium that excites me so much. And applying that either through acting and script analysis with acting, transferring that to directing, and then bringing on all these other forms of analysis — I've always gravitated towards the administrative troubleshooting element of what we do. And as stressful as directing is, it's so enticing, just the how do you possibly crack this nut? How do you possibly achieve this effect or this giant action sequence or schedule or budget or everything that entails?

You left right before all these new cast members were introduced after the time jump, so did it feel different at all? Like you had transferred back to your old school but there were suddenly a bunch of new students there?

Yeah, "That's my seat!" No, I'm just kidding. Yeah, it's actually funny you say that because when I moved to the U.K., I came back to the States to visit my junior high, and there were some different people. It was a lot of my old friends, but a lot of new ones. And it's weird. It kind of felt like that, but it felt so relaxed. And I guess, because I was also coming in at the end of that whole season, so everybody had had a chance to really embed themselves. You know how it is, it's like you sink or swim being here. So you're either in and it's all going well — well, that's really the only option. That's just what has to happen.

No choice in the matter.

So it felt very familiar. And then I had basically binged the entire season of all the episodes that had been pretty much finished before I got here. So I got to know everybody. I felt like a watcher, you know what I mean? I was like, "Oh no, I already know you because I've been watching your face on the TV."

When you came back, how much did Angela outline the rest of Maggie's story and her journey on the show and what it was going to be? Or was it more just, "Hey, here's what's happening in the season 10 finale and then we'll figure out the rest later"?

More of the latter because we knew I was coming back. I think part of it was, they were still hammering out some story. And then lo and behold, we've had a lot more time to get very specific about that story. And so Angela had basically said, "You're going to be coming back in." I said, "I've been gone a long time. What's happened? Do I have a different mindset, skill set? Is my son still alive?"

She was able to say yes to those three things. And then we just sort of kept everything a little bit mysterious from there. Some good has happened. Some bad has happened. And now here we are getting ready to shoot these six episodes, which is like 10 part B. And it's been really juicy because we never get six episodes at a time, first of all. So that's just really exciting. And then it turns out there's been some good and some bad. And it's going to be pretty and it's going to be ugly.

Did you know when you came back that the show was planning to wrap things up at the end of season 11, or did that come later?

No, we knew like 24 hours before you guys did. So it was funny because part of you is like, "Okay, 30 episodes, that's kind of essentially still, like, three seasons of a show." So it gives you some time to get used to it. And you get to go out with a bang, knowing the end point. You're disappointed on one level, because you think this is never going to end. And then you're relieved because you think this is never going to end. And then it actually has this beautiful goal that we're all running towards, the audience and us alike. So I respect that always in TV shows, like English series that are just such limited things. And you're like, "Okay, cool. This is great. We know that I'm fully invested to this point."

Do you know where Maggie is going to be at the end of those 30 episodes? Angela hasn't shared that with you, has she?

No. I know that there are murmurings of an extended story with Maggie when the official mothership is done. And so just like you and I talked about a year or two years ago now, whatever it was, that's cool. I'm in the moment now.

The Walking Dead
Lauren Cohan as Maggie Rhee and Seth Gilliam as Father Gabriel Stokes on 'The Walking Dead'
| Credit: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

Maggie gets to come back and save the day here in this episode. But why does she ultimately come back? Was the news in that note she reads at the top of the episode just too much to ignore?

Yeah. They did have things under control, but then to learn about Tara and Enid and Jesus. And I just remembered this the other day: At that point, I don't even know yet that Hilltop is also gone. So that's a nice surprise we'll get to. But yeah, so to this end, she went on this mission with people, supposedly a combination of Georgie and some other people to go and learn and see what she could do to expand both her own life and see what she would bring back to the group. And I think it just had gotten to a point where it was just unfeasible to be in the same places as Negan and to contend with her feelings about that. And just as anybody would, just give it a minute or forever.

Well, that's the interesting thing moving forward that I think I'm really looking forward to seeing. We've been watching Daryl still been carrying the anti-Negan torch. But now at the end of this episode, they sort of team up to take out Beta. But now here comes Maggie back and…

How dare you guys!

Yeah, right! He's like part of the gang, he's part of the crew now. And that's got to be weird for her.

Yeah, I'm like, "Daryl was my friend!"

Yeah, right? Like at least he was in a cell when you left. I mean, you weren't happy he was alive, but at least they had the bastard in the cell.

You know what it is: "I leave you guys for nine years and this is what happens? You let the psychopath out. I don't care who he helped. I don't care what he did. There's no excuse." [Laughs] Yeah, I know. And obviously, I haven't been privy to these saving graces of Negan's or his great relationship with kids or his affinity for animals. I don't know any of this. And even if I did… So, it's going to be a lot. It's definitely going to be a lot when she comes back. I'm so jonesing to get into it. It's really, it's fricking great. And I couldn't be doing it with anybody more fun than Jeffrey [Dean Morgan]. It's just, we're really amped. It's great.

In a weird way, almost even more intriguing than Negan and Maggie meeting back up for me is the introduction between Negan and Herschel. That is going to be interesting. First of all, where's Herschel? We didn't see Herschel in this episode.

Oh, we'll see. It's really a wild ride, these six episodes that we're doing. I'm not going to say anything, though.

Who's this warrior you're rolling with with the funky mask and the badass weapons slicing and dicing folks up? Were you given any information at the time who this person was?

So it's funny because I had said to Angela, "So, what's changed? How does she fight now?" This type of thing. And, "Do I need to be training? Like, what do I need to do to tell this story?" And she's like, "Well, we have this person. And they're going to sort of, this will say a lot kind of thing." And so I read this episode, and I was so gleeful to read how I come back in. For people who read the comic, know that this would have been Gabriel's last moment. And then this hacking at the door and it's just like the blade of who we find out to be this masked man. The whole moment was just really happy and fun. And I love using words like happy and fun when I talk about our show. I think some part of me is like, "Must get bright words in here."

It's an absolute laugh riot, Lauren.

It's a laugh riot! Just kick off your shoes, lay back. And yeah, so just knowing that I was going to be coming in with him and we'll meet some other people too that come from sort of the places that she's been, this amalgam of her new friends and gang.

You all are starting up production again soon, and Angela told us about some of the precautions they're putting in place. How excited are you to get back at it?

It's pretty unreal, to be honest with you. I mean working first of all, just rad. Our producers have put such amazing protocol in place to keep us able to just forget and to do our job and to just be happy to be together and create. And it's really good. I did a music video. I won't say who it's for yet until it's about to come out. But I did a music video and I said, "Guys, I'd love to do this, but you guys need to follow the same protocol that we are on Walking Dead."

So my first AD from Walking Dead, Matthew Goodwin, came on. And he was our first AD for the music video. And it was beautiful. It was such a good experience because I was like, "Okay, cool. We've got the red team, we got the blue team. When the blue team's here, the red team's out. When the blue team is on the set, you wear your shield" It feels like it's already sort of a military operation and it just sort of ups the game to that. But it gave me total confidence to be like, "Cool, let's take it back to work. Things are going to be a bit different, but we're adults and we can do it." And it's cool. There's definitely going to be some kills by distance.

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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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