Lauren Cohan Elaborates on Maggie Leadership in ‘The Walking Dead’ Season 9

Lauren Cohan’s widowed Hilltop leader Maggie Rhee will continue to develop into a more independent civilization leader in The Walking Dead Season Nine, inspired in part by Rick Grimes’ solely-made and controversial decision to keep Negan alive against her wishes.

“When we were fighting the Saviors, you told me that soon, you’d be the one following me,” Maggie tells Rick in the Season Nine trailer, recounting a shared moment between the two from Season Eight. “But you didn’t, because I wasn’t someone to follow. That changes now.”

But Rick ordered Negan be saved after splicing his throat, sparing him and sentencing him to imprisonment in the Alexandrian jail.

Rick’s unexpected display of mercy came even as Maggie cried for her husband’s murderer be executed — a brand of justice Maggie hopes to exact as evidenced by a Season Eight closing scene where she told Daryl and Jesus intends to show Rick he was “wrong to do what he did.”

“I think it’s a realization for Maggie that she needs to just trust her gut and sort of make decisions that may be unpopular or may be not in total agreement with the group,” Maggie actress Lauren Cohan told EW.

“Because we had an agreement [about] how we were going to deal with Negan, and Rick didn’t want to, and Rick and Michonne as we move forward have a different idea of finding peace in the future. And that’s just not really working for her now, or maybe just not yet, but she needs to get down to the facts for her and say, ‘I’ve got to run this civilization and I’ve got to lean on my own decisions and have faith in my own decisions.’ So that’s a big part of just the theme of Maggie’s action right now.”

Asked if being a new mother plays a part in Maggie commanding an even larger presence as leader, Cohan said the child drives much of Maggie’s decision making in the steps to a better and brighter future.

“I think implementing security and finding a peace of mind, creating a sustainable future, and knowing that she’s doing things for her son, we’ll see a lot of themes of that motherhood play into this season which is really conflicting and interesting for me to explore,” Cohan said.

A series star since Season Two, Cohan will be stepping away from The Walking Dead this upcoming season alongside Andrew Lincoln. Both stars will be exiting after six episodes, but Cohan said she isn’t ruling out a future return.

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“I’m in the first six episodes of the show, and then a lot happens in the sixth episode of the show,” Cohan told People. “But the possibilities for how Maggie remains in the story and re-enters the story... are multitudinous.”

The Walking Dead premieres Season Nine Sunday, October 7 on AMC.