Former Walking Dead Star Blames Lauren Cohan’s Exit for Their Character's Hurried Death

Former Walking Dead star Xander Berkeley, who played cowardly ex-Hilltop leader Gregory between Seasons 6 and 9, says his departure was "truncated" to accommodate the looming exit of Maggie (Lauren Cohan), who was temporarily written out of the show in the fifth episode of its ninth season when Cohan joined another series. After acting as a foil to Maggie across multiple seasons, the underhanded Gregory was killed off in the Season 9 premiere, "A New Beginning," when Maggie ordered his execution following two attempts on her life: one committed by a drunken Earl (John Finn) and a later attack directly carried out by a knife-wielding Gregory wanting to retain his seat of power.

“I just think that they truncated it into that first episode of the ninth season with too many other things going on. They didn’t quite savor the moment the way it could have been,” Berkeley told Comic Insider at Wizard World New Orleans. “And I didn’t quite buy Gregory pulling a knife on Maggie. I kind of liked the idea in the comic book of him poisoning her.”

In creator Robert Kirkman's comic books, Gregory attempted to sow discord against Maggie over her growing leadership before nearly killing her with poisoned wine in The Walking Dead #137. He was jailed by Jesus and, after some deliberation, Maggie ordered Gregory be publicly hanged in issue #141.

Deceiving Maggie and poisoning her “seemed a little bit more diabolical, a little bit more like Gregory’s way of going about [trying to kill Maggie].”

“For whatever reason, they had to [hurry],” Berkeley added. “I think because Lauren was gonna be leaving the show, they had to hurry and get rid of me so they could establish her as the one running Hilltop. But they just had to move the whole plot forward and faster.”

In exit interviews released immediately following Berkeley's final episode in late 2018, Berkeley criticized his character's hurried death and his lack of redemption, expressing disappointment Gregory was "irredeemably douche-y." Backing Gregory into a "one-dimensional corner" did a "great disservice" to the character, according to Berkeley.

"I think people are always more complex than they are generally allowed to be portrayed in television shows, and in movies," Berkeley said in a podcast interview at the time. "And it is expedient to make them simpler so that people can follow it and not get lost in the muddle. So I get why they are simplified and sometimes unnecessarily so, to keep things moving along and to make it clear for the audience."

He continued, "I tend to be of the personal taste to not like to be told how I’m supposed to react to a story or a character so that I can be conflicted, so that I can make up my own mind as an audience member, I like that kind of complexity. But that was never gonna be the case with this character and this show."

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Maggie is expected to return sometime during the back half of Season 10 before Cohan fully rejoins as a series regular in Season 11.

The Walking Dead Season 10 returns with new episodes Feb. 23 on AMC. For more TWD intel, follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter.