AMC's The Walking Dead will return to kick off the back half of Season 8, with the mid-season premiere airing Sunday, February 25 at 9 PM ET. Regardless of what happens in these next episodes, there is still a big question hovering over Season 9. Actress Lauren Cohan, who plays Hilltop leader Maggie Rhee in the hit zombie series, has a contract that expires at the end of Season 8. There's no deal in place yet for her to return. While this puts Lauren Cohan's return in jeopardy, producer Scott M. Gimple, former Walking Dead showrunner who is now overseeing both The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead as the franchise's chief content officer, revealed in a new interview that he's hopeful a deal will ultimately be struck, even though the actress has been fielding offers during pilot season.
"I'm incredibly hopeful about (a new deal). These things do happen in TV (an actress leaving a show). But we're talking. And Lauren is an actor who has such intution and such power. So yeah, hopefully it all works out."
This hasn't been the first time there's been speculation about Lauren Cohan's potential exit, with a report from last month claiming that the actress has been offered upwards of six different pilots to potentially star in. There had also been reports that Lauren Cohan, who joined the show in Season 2 as Maggie and has appeared in 108 of the show's 115 episodes, had approached AMC about closing the pay gap between her and male co-stars Andrew Lincoln and Norman Reedus. The network reportedly offered her a modest raise in exchange for a long-term contract locking her into the show, but she turned that down. Lauren Cohan has also been branching out into movies lately, with roles in The Boy, Batman v Superman, All Eyez On Me and the upcoming Mile 22.
As of now, Lauren Cohan hasn't signed on to star in any pilot, but the fact she's been fielding offers could be quite telling, since it wouldn't be the first time the casting of an actor/actress in a different project ultimately foreshadowed the death of that actor/actress' character. Speculation arose about the fate of Shane Walsh when The Walking Dead actor Jon Bernthal was cast in the short-lived TNT series Mob City, before Shane was ultimately killed off on the show. Sarah Wayne Callies' casting in the Warner Bros.' movie Into the Storm raised some eyebrows about her character Lori Grimes being killed off, which she ultimately was, and Steven Yeun's casting in the Netflix movie Okja, while The Walking Dead was in production, ultimately foreshadowed the death of his character Glenn Rhee, at the hands of Negan.
Maggie is still alive in The Walking Dead comics, but if she is killed off at some point in the back half of Season 8, most likely the Season 8 finale, if it happens at all, it won't be the first time the show has diverged from the comics. Laurie Holden's character Andrea was killed off in Season 3, but in the comics, she was alive for much longer, with her death coming in Issue 167, which was published last May. The most recent example of the show forging a new path from the comics was in the Season 8 mid-season finale, where it was revealed that Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs) was bitten in the torso, and it was confirmed that he will actually die in the mid-season premiere. Carl Grimes is still alive in the comics as well, so it's definitely possible that Maggie could be the next character killed off. TV Line broke the news on Lauren Cohan's contract talks.