By: Amy West
“All any of us have been talking about for the past year is how we’re gonna bring it home,” says The Walking Dead star Lauren Cohan in the run-up to the zombie drama’s eagerly anticipated final season. “That’s been the gift of knowing, you know? You don’t always get that.”
The beginning of the end – or so it’s been dubbed in all of its promos, referencing the fact that the supersized instalment is going to be split into three eight-episode airing blocks – has been a long time coming. It was back in September 2020, just a month short of its 10 year anniversary, that AMC unexpectedly announced that the show’s 11th chapter would be its last – and all that preparation time has allowed the cast and crew to come up with a “scary and satisfying conclusion” that they’re pretty confident will please loyal fans.
“I feel like what people have been wanting is going to reach their screens,” Maggie Rhee actor Cohan, who is currently filming in Georgia, told RadioTimes.com ahead of the season 11 premiere, which airs on AMC in the US on Sunday (August 22), before landing on Disney Plus in the UK the following day. “So I feel really excited about that, and proud of it.”
Describing the whole situation as “bittersweet”, she went on to tease: “I won’t say which episode we’re at now, but I literally have just come up for air. I’m like, ‘Okay, if I feel like that, then it’s got to feel like that for people when they get to see it.”
When asked if she feels any sort of pressure to wrap the story up in a way that will appease as many viewers as possible, or whether she’s able to detach herself from that aspect somewhat because she doesn’t determine what’s in the scripts, Cohan gushed about how collaborative the team behind The Walking Dead is. So much so, in fact, that roles can sometimes get a little confused during a busy day on set.
“Sometimes you do have to remind yourself, like, ‘This is my part of the job’,” she laughed. “But you know, your enthusiasm for everybody else within the job informs every part of it. I love to show up at work and stick my nose into everybody’s business and see what they’re all doing.
“I don’t mean to check on it but just, like, to get inspired by what they’re doing. It’s a massive project, you know? We can all affect each other so positively,” Cohan explained. “If there’s ever anything I don’t get when reading a script, I love getting on the phone and texting with our writers because I’m always wanting to make it the best that it can always be – and everybody is like that on this show.
“Of course, we’ve been giving it everything since the start but more recently, we’ve been consciously talking about how we can push ourselves to our absolute limits,” she noted. “Every time, now, when I’m doing a thing, when we have some sort of stunt scene, I’m like, ‘Could you go a bit further? Do a bit more? Just so we know we left it all on the table. I’ve loved having that consciousness this year.”
While it’s a given that their paths will come back together again at some point, the new season – which won’t finish until 2022 – opens with the show’s main characters split into two separate storylines: Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura), Ezekiel (Khary Payton), Princess (Paola Lázaro) and Eugene (Josh McDermitt) trying to hold their own following a hostile run-in with the Commonwealth, and Maggie, Daryl (Norman Reedus), Carol (Melissa McBride) and co looking to rebuild Alexandria in the wake of the devastating Whisperer War.
Soon, The Boys’ Laila Robins and Josh Hamilton will be introduced as Pamela Milton and Lance Hornsby respectively, two potential antagonists lifted straight from the pages of Robert Kirkman’s graphic novels. There are also the Reapers to contend with, too, the mean-looking masked gang that has taken over Maggie’s former home, Meridian.
Led by Ritchie Coster’s Pope, “they’re the epitome of brute force,” said Cohan. “They’re really skilled. They’re not like any threat we’ve seen before, they’re ruthless,” she added. “And for them to just kill so thoughtlessly, you know? They’re not killing to hold on to us or sort of, like, turn us on to their side. It’s frightening, I was shocked.”
Good to know that after all this time, that can still happen. The end may be nigh, but the twists and turns The Walking Dead will take to get there are sure to be unpredictable.
The Walking Dead season 11 premieres in the US on 22nd August 2021 on AMC, before arriving in the UK the following day exclusively via Star on Disney Plus. If you’re looking for more to watch, check out our handy TV Guide.