"It gets so much worse before it gets better," the actress says of season 11.

The last look we had on season 10 of The Walking Dead was one between Lauren Cohan's Maggie and the man who murdered her husband, Jeffrey Dean Morgan's Negan. And suffice it to say, it was not a friendly look. What happens between these two — and whether they can coexist within the same group — is the biggest question mark as we head into season 11 of the AMC zombie drama, which premieres Aug. 22.

We spoke to Cohan to get her thoughts on kicking off the conclusion of TWD, and the star revealed that Maggie will make a "terrible" decision in season 11. Whether everyone chooses to go along with that decision remains to be seen. She also talked about how her character has changed since she left in season 9, and carefully weighed the pros and cons of Maggie killing Negan.

The Walking Dead
Lauren Cohan on 'The Walking Dead'
| Credit: Josh Stringer/AMC

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When you started filming episode 1101, which is technically the start of the final season, did it feel like the beginning of the end? Or was there just so much road still ahead with these three batches of eight episodes for you to feel that way?

LAUREN COHAN: We didn't know how it was going to air. I knew it was going to air with some breaks, but I think it's just been in the past few weeks when you've seen the advertising with "the final trilogy" — it made it feel a bit easier to bear because it felt like Lord of the Rings. It's like, "No, no, no, don't worry, there's plenty to go!" It's like, "Okay, I'm not sad now. I know we'll get there." But it becomes murky. It's like you can kind of drive along the road, but it's foggy and you see just far enough in front of you, and it's actually sort of a blessing.

I honestly feel very happy right now because the show has been so much fun to do and I want to just stick with that feeling. So I'm having a great time, and there's a lot of incoming change and cool character stuff to get into that feels good to focus on and know that the rest is coming. But when we came back, I think the overwhelming feeling, honestly, was just coming back to work. It felt nice to be a part of a big ship.

How would you describe Maggie's journey in the first eight episodes of season 11?

It's about fielding a lot of surprise. If I was just making some sort of illustration of eight episodes, it's like you take a couple of steps and then something comes at you from the side. And then you take one more step and something yanks you from behind. And then you get up and take two more steps, and meanwhile there's this furnace internally of whatever the conflict is with Negan that you don't really have time to deal with.

It's like a soldier with PTSD — there's no time to process things because you've come home to what you hope is a sanctuary, but it's not. And it's not safe. There's a lot of work needed. So it's really been about making the best decision you can with the information you have. And as the season progresses, it's a whole bunch of s---. It gets so much worse before it gets better. It's like, "I have this great idea. I can't promise it's going to work out, but do you want to come with me?" And it's a terrible idea. It's so much worse before it's better. Like, she's saying, "Can you just please stick with me? Please, I promise." She wants one more shot, one more chance.

How has Maggie changed from the Maggie who left in season 9?

She went out there partly to go and fortify herself and become a better leader — not just to run away from Negan, but to go be somewhere else where she could be someone else, and not just someone infused with the rage and regret and resentment. And part of that was good, and a lot of it was a test. I think part of what happened when she went was this beautiful thing that a lot of us fantasize about, which is that the world isn't all bad. Even though she saw so much horror, it's sort of this dream to go out on the road, you and your son, and go to places and tell him stories about where he came from and the people he'll never get to meet, and see places and go to the ocean and just be unfettered by all the structure and the pressures of society, and live this wild life.

There's something so beautiful about it. But in the end, you need people, and you might need to come home. And it's a long journey. It's hard to actually try to sum it up like that, so I won't try.

Well now that she is home, the last season ended with Negan and Maggie staring each other down. So obviously that's been queued up to be a big conflict point in season 11. How would you describe the dynamic between those two as we pick things up?

Let's say she kills Negan, and it seems like it's the solution to the problem. If she lets herself go down that road, I think she has truly let go of who she was. This is just Lauren speaking, but I think there's something to be gained for how they could reach a resolution. And I don't think Maggie's consciously thinking this, but she does know that if she lets that dark wave sort of crest and wash over her, then it's over. Everything you have struggled to keep alive in all these years as you've traipsed the earth, looking for a better life and a life worth living, it's over.

And these animals she's come across out there, these animalistic people who are just eking out a life — that's them if they let it go. That's them if they give in to kill or be killed, and we can't let that happen. And she, thank God, has Hershel [Kien Michael Spiller] to fight for, and to fight for that life.

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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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