‘The Walking Dead’ Showrunner on Rick and Maggie Tension

Maggie (Lauren Cohan) has developed from budding leader to full-fledged Hilltop chief in The Walking Dead Season Nine, blossoming the farming colony into a hefty powerhouse community — a new position that means no longer falling in line with close friend Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln).

“Maggie and Rick, who have been on this long journey together, they’ve traveled since the farm, and Rick really has been like a mentor to Maggie,” new showrunner Angela Kang said on The Walking Dead Season Nine Preview Special.

“He has been so supportive of the fact that she’s kind of coming into her own as a leader, he said that he would be the own to follow her, and then at the end of the season when he kind of made this unilateral decision in some ways to spare Negan when they had a pact to kill him, that didn’t sit well with Maggie.”

Audiences last saw a shadow-clad Maggie making plans with number two Jesus (Tom Payne) and Rick’s right hand man Daryl (Norman Reedus), making clear she intends to wreak vengeance on Alexandria prisoner Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and show Rick “he was wrong to do what he did” in sparing her husband’s bat-swinging murderer.

18 months later, Maggie has since utilized the ‘key to a future’ given to her by benefactor Georgie (Jayne Atkinson) and built up the Hilltop into a major player in the newly established network of communities that now includes Alexandria, the Kingdom, Oceanside, and the Sanctuary.

“We’ll come into this season seeing that Maggie has really done so much to the Hilltop [and] has built it up,” Kang said. “It’s in such great shape as a community, and Rick recognizes that that’s a direct result of her leadership.”

Despite the ominous-feeling tone in Maggie’s cabal meeting, she’s still on good terms with Rick — but the two leaders will clash philosophically as they both attempt to lead their respective communities into this new world.

“But we’ll see that Maggie is just, you know, she’s not gonna just fall in line with everything Rick’s doing because she has to take care of her own people now. She’s got her own agendas and she’s gonna follow them,” Kang explained.

“That doesn’t mean that they hate each other, they still love each other, respect each other deeply, but they have some real differences in philosophy. That’s a story we’ll be playing through the season.”

Cohan previously told EW Rick’s solely-made decision to spare Negan will drive a lot of Maggie’s trajectory, as she’s now stepped more into her own following the birth of baby Hershel.

“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,” Cohan said.

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“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.”

The Walking Dead returns Sunday, October 7 on AMC.