The Walking Dead’s Lauren Cohan Teaches Us How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse

The TWD star on being a Jersey girl, loving Michael Bolton, and her Halloween costume.


After five seasons on AMC, The Walking Dead isn’t slowing down. No wonder Lauren Cohan, the Philadelphia-born British actress who is on the run from indefatigable zombies every week on TV’s highest-rated cable show, admits she is exhausted. Despite her dramatic chops, Cohan displays an uncanny knack for comedy. The actress, who still identifies as a Jersey girl at heart despite her English accent (she moved from New Jersey to Surrey at age 13), recites lines from Woody Allen movies, dreams of playing Steve Martin’s titular role in a remake of The Jerk and jokes about having the hots for Michael Bolton. (Don’t judge.) Oh yeah, and she also spills some secrets about TWD Season 6, which Cohan calls “The Mission Impossible of seasons.”


DETAILS: You have an interesting Twitter bio: “Shootin’ rats at the dump is not my idea of fun. Why not, we brought sandwiches.” What on earth does that mean?

Lauren Cohan: Oh, my God! It’s from a Woody Allen movie, and I just forgot which one [Sweet and Lowdown]. Sean Penn is trying to entice this girl out on a date and he says it with absolute seriousness. It’s such a funny scene.


DETAILS: Why does that quote resonate with you?

Lauren Cohan: The absurd, when it’s very matter of fact, is one of the things that makes me laugh the most. If I were to play a psychopath or any kind of character, the part justifies everything that they’re doing and their actions make sense to them. That’s one of my favorite things about acting: You get to let go of everything—every doubt about what you’re doing—because in your character’s heart, it’s the right choice. So you get to go down these crazy little roads.


DETAILS: What would be your dream role?

Lauren Cohan: Steve Martin in The Man With Two Brains. Or Steve Martin in The Jerk. Or basically any Steve Martin role. I love characters who have a really different sense of the world and are innocent and childlike and completely absurd.


DETAILS: Why are zombies still so zeitgeist-y?

Lauren Cohan: It’s funny. I used to think it’s like the show—and the whole zombie craze—gives us a chance to say: You can check out and go with the status quo and shuffle your way through life. Or you can try to sever yourself from that and strive for community and an ideal sense of camaraderie like our group gets to do on the show. It’s easy to think less about what you do and where your actions take you and the long-lasting butterfly effect of the choices that we make. But I like the idea that everything to do with shooting this show is to me: What is loyalty? What is friendship? What is family? What is love? And it happens to be against the backdrop of tragic, dire circumstances that heighten the difference. So, you know, we have each other’s backs—or we die. We trust in and try to protect the people that we love and fight for what we believe in or you become a quote-unquote zombie, so to speak. We’re in the middle of nowhere and that is what you think about every day: What’s the most important thing in life?


DETAILS: Do you think you could survive a zombie apocalypse in real life?

Lauren Cohan: Yeah, I do. I really do. Two years ago, I said that if the end was coming, fine. I’d just spend my last day doing something I love to do. But now I think about it so much more seriously. Not just if the end is coming. But how do you cherish the people you love? Being on the show for a while, we have lost so many characters—and friends—because as you can probably imagine from watching it, we get so freaking close working together. So when we know somebody is going, you have the attitude of, like, presence. We know it is a sacred space that we got to work in together, so you are really, really present. A lot of the questions that we have this season are: You don’t just survive; you actually make a life. So with that in mind, I would fight. To live. For as long as I possibly could. You know, the human potential for survival is so strong—and it’s much bigger than any one person.


DETAILS: But it seems like every character on your show inevitably gets killed off, and it’s only a matter of time for Maggie Greene, too. What would be the best way for her to go in your opinion?

Lauren Cohan: I don’t even entertain that thought. I don’t want her to die. I want her to survive until something changes. I don’t want the world to go back to how it was, necessarily, but for them to find a sustainable way of living that is less threatening.


DETAILS: What spoilers can you reveal from the new season?

Lauren Cohan: We have the same types of challenges in terms of trying to sustain a home, but on top of that, literally we live to breathe. This year, all of us are so, so, so consumed with the emotional, the physical, the action, the explosive, crazy, dangerous heights that the season is taking not only for the characters but for us actors. I don’t know how every year blows the lid off the year before. I just don’t know. We’re definitely all like: We’re pretty tired! But it’s a good kind of tired.


DETAILS: What did you think of your show’s sequel, Fear the Walking Dead?

Lauren Cohan: I haven’t had time to watch it. So I don’t even know how I feel about it.


DETAILS: Are there any other shows that you binge-watch?

Lauren Cohan: I just started watching The Affair and Portlandia. I am one of those people who waits five years and then watches it.


DETAILS: If you went to a Halloween party, what costume would you choose? Not a zombie, presumably.

Lauren Cohan: I always do something random. This year I’m going to go as Glenn [her TV husband played by Steven Yeun]. You know how people go as Maggie and Glenn all the time? I think it would be funny if we all randomly go as other [characters] from our show.


DETAILS: Before moving to the U.K., you spent much of your childhood in New Jersey. Do you still identify as a Jersey girl?

Lauren Cohan: Yeah, I do, because my aunts and uncles and cousins all live in New Jersey. They’re English but moved—it’s so complicated. Literally, I am just a fifty-fifty split. I have spent as much time now collectively in California and Georgia as I did in New Jersey or England, so it’s not that I straight-up identify as New Jersey. But I do strongly identify as being American.


DETAILS: What are your defining American and British qualities?

Lauren Cohan: My love for Bruce Willis. He is from New Jersey too. My dad and I have this Bruce Willis thing. My dad met Bruce Willis once. He never gets starstruck, and he was so starstruck. And my most British quality? I love the rain.


DETAILS: Let’s play an imaginary game of “Shag, Marry, or Kill” with the male costars on your TV show. You’ll have to pick one to shag, a second to marry, and a third to kill.

Lauren Cohan: Oh, I hate this game. They’re like my brothers. I can’t do it. It’s like we are related at this point, so there’s no answer that doesn’t sound wrong.


DETAILS: But that’s the whole point.

Lauren Cohan: I’m leaving it to people’s imagination.


DETAILS: So then who was your first celebrity crush?

Lauren Cohan: New Kids on the Block was probably my first celebrity crush. But I’ve had inexplicable obsessions with different people. When I was very young, I used to go to Michael Bolton concerts. When I was 7, he invited me to come up on stage and sing a song with him. And when I was 21, I was waiting tables in L.A. and I waited on him. I couldn’t keep it together. I didn’t listen to his music anymore, but my 7-year-old self was, like, suddenly waiting the table on Michael Bolton. I burst into tears.


DETAILS: That probably happens to him a lot. What will men never understand about women?

Lauren Cohan: A general thing between men and women that I have learned is that you can never assume somebody knows what you’re thinking. And that works in both directions: If everybody just says everything with love—even if they think the other person should already get it and it’s really obvious—then it is like a complete game-changer in a relationship. For me, that is what I’ve found. That has been my biggest lesson.


DETAILS: You always hear guys complain: “Hey, we’re not mind readers!”

Lauren Cohan: Yeah. There are certain things, though, that men don’t get about women. Men have this idea that we have much more superficial conversations. I was talking to Sonequa [Martin-Green] and Danai [Gurira], who are Sasha and Michonne on the show. And Norman Reedus walked by thinking we were just having idle girl chat and caught the tail end of this complicated, convoluted philosophical discussion. And he goes: “That’s what girls talk about?”



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