‘The Walking Dead’ Planning Future Maggie Stories Despite Lauren Cohan Exit

Despite Lauren Cohan stepping away from The Walking Dead, showrunner Angela Kang is planning future stories with Hilltop leader Maggie Rhee — leaving the door open for an eventual return.

Kang told IGN she’s “really excited about Maggie’s story this season,” and the plan is to involve the character in the future after bringing this chapter of Maggie’s story to a close.

“Lauren came onto the show the same time I did, actually — so I’ve really enjoyed writing for her and working with her and the plan is to have more story with her, so we’ve figured out a way to have this chapter with Maggie,” Kang said.

“And we really see [that] she has fully come into her own as a leader — she’s a leader who is as strong, as formidable as Rick, who is smart and humane and she also, when she makes a promise to do something, she wants to pursue it, so that’s part of the story that we play. An element of the season is, we explore this idea of domino effects, and so we’ll see an event that happens in the first episode that dominoes in surprising ways into a really interesting story for Maggie.”

Cohan’s upcoming ABC spy dramedy Whiskey Cavalier was ordered to series in May, just days after Cohan’s camp engaged in an oft-reported contract standoff with AMC following the expiration of her Walking Dead deal at the end of Season Eight.

With her new deal, Cohan will be gone before Season Nine’s midway point — but the widowed Hilltop head and new mother will have a hefty story to tell before taking a break, one spurred by the controversial decision made by Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) to spare the life of jailed Savior leader Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan).

“In the moment, Rick made a decision largely out of his own grief for his son and his son’s wish for a future and a civilization,” Kang said of Rick acting out the last wishes of late son Carl (Chandler Riggs).

“It’s not anything he ever discussed with his team, it was something he, in the moment, believed was the right thing to do and so he spared him. So when we come into the story, we’re going to see both the good and the bad sides of what’s happened in the wake of that decision.”

That means butting heads with Maggie, who last season plotted with Jesus (Tom Payne) to act against Rick and gun for Negan as a means of avenging the death of her husband and father of her child, Glenn (Steven Yeun).

“We see that in some ways it worked to achieve the peace between the communities that Rick hoped for; it’s allowed them to move on and keep building, and yet it’s caused pain and its caused a rift in some ways between the philosophies of the communities, so that’s one of the big things we’ll be exploring,” Kang teased. “And obviously Maggie’s story in that is a major element of what we’ll see this season.”

Kang previously said while there will be tension and a rift between Rick and Maggie, the pair still deeply love and respect one another — but they’ll encounter issues with one another’s point of view, especially now that Maggie has come into her own and developed further as a leader who has since built up the Hilltop into her own formidable community.

Cohan told People she isn’t ruling out a future return and that Maggie’s story this season is left open-ended.

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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 said. “But the possibilities for how Maggie remains in the story and re-enters the story... are multitudinous.”

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