[Warning: This story contains spoilers from AMC's The Walking Dead and the comics which inspired it.]
The world of The Walking Dead is about to expand.
Following the shooting of Carl (Chandler Riggs) at the close of the Season 2 premiere, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) will frantically set out in search for help. He'll seek solace at the farm of Hershel Greene (Scott Wilson), which houses a family unaware of just how far the zombie apocalypse has spread.
"They think this is just a temporary thing," explains Lauren Cohan, whose character, Maggie Greene, will be introduced in Sunday's episode. "They've been really sheltered. So when the group comes, they come with all of their energy and all of their news, and I think it takes the Greene family a minute to get their head around what the outside has really become."
Hershel, the patriarch of the Greene family, will lend his expertise in helping Carl, but that doesn't necessarily mean he welcomes the presence of Rick & Co. "They're a Christian family and they want to help, so... naturally they're going to do everything they can," Cohan says. "But they also want to protect themselves and maintain what they consider a safe hold. Over the course of the group being at the farm, [the family] really wakes up to a lot of things. Dad especially has some big misconceptions about what's happening out there."
Although Cohan says Maggie will do her best to keep the peace between the arriving survivors and the Greene family, she says her character is quite the "badass when she has to be." But "she's also very caring and compassionate," Cohan says. "She's just a classic rebel. I think she went through this really tough rebellious stage and shunned her religion and her family. Now, she's come back around, and especially in light of the events, she's coming back to be with her family ... and actually being the matriarchal figure in the Greene family."
As in the graphic novel series that inspired the show, there will be a spark between Maggie and Glenn (Steven Yeun). "They have this kindred connection," Cohan says. "It's not that he's just smart and brave and cute and her age and available and not related to her. I think, in the sad way that we might die tomorrow, it's like, 'Let's do this! F--- it!' [She] and Glenn fall for each other and their relationship gives them both purpose in this kind of unique world."
But will the couple's meet cute be as bluntly sexual as it was in the comics? "It's an awesome beginning of their physical relationship," Cohan teases.
Not everyone is so lovey-dovey about this new coexistence. "Shane [Jon Bernthal] is a huge troublemaker," Cohan says. "Shane's character is just so volatile and that doesn't help when they get to the farm. The question of what's right is so constant through this whole thing. You need to respect the fact that this is Hershel's farm, and yet, how do any of the old rules apply anymore? Everybody's just trying to survive, but the Greene family doesn't realize how important survival is until the group brings the news of the outside world."
Shane even being on the Greene farm is one of several departures from the comic books. (Spoiler alert! In the books, Shane met his demise prior to the group's arrival at Hershel's house.) Cohan says there are other differences in the story line, including the characterization of Maggie. "Comic book Maggie is mainly a bit more blunt," Cohan notes. "Also, [in the comics], I don't feel like we get to know Maggie very well until we get to the prison. In our show, I feel like we understand a lot more of Maggie within the context of her family and given her history and background."
Does Cohan find the fact that her character is still alive in the comics as a sign of job security? "You never know if anything's going to be changed, but I do feel excited at how much development Maggie is getting," she says. "So, I do definitely have a feeling that I'm going to be around for a minute.
"But if we put that in print, they'll kill me tomorrow," she says with a slightly nervous laugh. "At the end of the day... whatever is best for the story is what anybody wants to happen. The things that happen this season, some of them will literally smack you around the head like a hammer."
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.