'The Walking Dead's Andrew Lincoln Says He Would Be Surprised If Maggie Isn't In Season 9

The Walking Dead leading man Andrew Lincoln expects Maggie Rhee and actress Lauren Cohan to be front and center come season 9, he told The Independent.

“Lauren is a good friend and wonderful actress. What she has created with the role of Maggie has had an enormous impact on the world of The Walking Dead," Lincoln said. "I would be surprised if Maggie Rhee wasn’t leading from the front as she always has done next season. That is, of course, if she and Rick make it through the next four episodes.”

Cohan has been engaged in a pay dispute with network AMC since February, leaving her future with the zombie drama in doubt.

The actress has starred as Maggie Rhee (née Greene) since season 2 in 2011, but Cohan is the only major Walking Dead cast member yet to ink a new deal to return for season 9.

Cohan has struck a deal with ABC to co-star in pilot Whiskey Cavalier, which may or may not be picked up to series. As reported by The Hollywood Reporter, the Walking Dead veteran has several options on the table:

Cohan leaves The Walking Dead after season eight; she re-signs to return for season nine as a regular; Whiskey Cavalier moves forward and Cohan either returns for a handful of TWD episodes or walks away from the zombie franchise entirely; or the pilot doesn't go to series and the actress opts to leave or return in either a full-time or limited capacity.

Maggie has long been a major character in the series, a role that has only increased with time as the pregnant widow stepped up to become de facto leader of the farm-like Hilltop community.

Though Maggie played a pivotal role in the Robert Kirkman comic books that inspire the show, the live-action counterpart recently distanced itself from the book in a major way when it killed off longtime survivor Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs), who in the books is poised to one day relieve father Rick Grimes as The Walking Dead's main player.

Co-star Khary Payton, who plays the Kingdom's King Ezekiel, handed down a simple — and public — decree: pay the woman.

Showrunner Scott Gimple — who will surrender the showrunner position over to producer and writer Angela Kang starting with season 9 — told TVLine he is "incredibly hopeful" both camps can strike a deal for Cohan's involvement come season 9.

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Executive producers Kirkman and Greg Nicotero confirmed earlier this month work has already begun on the upcoming ninth season, expected to debut this October on AMC.

Maggie will lead the Hilltop as they face a violent conflict with the invading Saviors in "Do Not Send Us Astray," airing Sunday at 9/8c on AMC.