This is my working theory of Lauren Cohan, anyway. You don’t know the woman she reminds me of, but my bet is, she would remind you of a woman you once fell for, too. And this isn’t just another way of saying she’s some Girl Next Door ideal. It’s something deep within her, both dazzling and approachable, individual and universal. Maybe that’s a bit hyperbolic, but it’s probably why she’s so darn watchable, no matter what she’s in.
What she’s been in, mostly, are shows that could be considered a breeding ground for attractive ingénues. If starlets used to come out of soap operas, now they rise from nerdy, cult-dramas: Supernatural, Chuck, The Vampire Diaries. Shows that inspire devotion, without ever dominating the cultural conversation. It’s a handy place to start, since it familiarizes you with the fringes of fame and gives you fans that will follow you to bigger, and yes, better shows. Shows like The Walking Dead. It also means that you get actors who are more willing to relax. They’ve dealt with the obsessive side of TV watchers (fan conventions exist because of shows like these) they can survive the scrutiny of the mainstream. “I’m also getting to the point where I want to be myself,” she says.
Speaking of: Lauren Cohan can talk to you talk to you about zombies if you want her too. And because zombies are big these days—and also because she’s a beautiful woman—people often want her too. Zombies are like sports for nerds: in the grand scheme of life, they are meaningless, pretend even, yet they inspire the kind of full-throated fandom that leads grown-men to paint their faces and argue about fantasy scenarios. And, like sports, men really seem to like it when women talk about them.
“I think they make you constantly assess what’s important to you and how much you want to fight for that,” she says. “I think we’re all becoming zombies in a lot of ways. I think much of the fascination with the show is you can check out and let yourself go with the crowd and not question things, or you can be like this band of survivors and choose to not give up and continue to make your own choices about how you want your life to be. Don’t be a zombie,” she says, and while it’s completely genuine—not to mention a fair assessment of the moral of the show (if it has a moral), it sounds rehearsed.
Which is why I don’t really want to talk to Lauren Cohan about zombies. Yes, The Walking Dead is a monstrous hit; both a testament to society’s fascination with the undead (and, by extension, death), and proof that the living dead genre, miraculously, continues to have life in it, even after years and years of shambling, running, goopy zombie narratives being thrust upon us. But, surely there’s more to her than her job, more than the part she plays. There’s something about Lauren Cohan that makes you want to actually talk to her.
It’s possibly this: Lauren Cohan reminds me of a girl I once had a thing for, and so, consequently, I realize I have a bit of a thing for Lauren Cohan. Not that she needs any help from nostalgia, she’s damn likeable on her own, thank you very much. But, it’d be disingenuous of me to not mention that. Besides, isn’t that the nature of all encounters with beautiful women—each interaction is a pearl on a string that reflects some past meeting, some previous infatuation, and foreshadows the same? Each beautiful woman is every beautiful woman.
That’s probably also why she reminds you of that girl you once had a thing for. Because, almost inevitably, the women you fall for—really fall for—share that quality. Self-awareness, confidence and enough experience to understand those aren’t the same thing, but they inform each other.
“I was raised Christian, and my mom married a Jewish man, and I was Bat Mitzvahed, and I began meditating, and now sometimes I go to church. I have this really lovely group of friends and we go to church together and we sing and we have conversations about relationships or love or whatever God is, and it’s a beautiful thing,” she says, and it’s refreshingly unrehearsed. You don’t often hear actors mention faith without it being part of their personal brand. Spirituality is too connected with vulnerability, to humility, to part of a famous person’s narrative. It too easily comes off as superficial or flakey. But not when Lauren Cohan talks about it.
“Actually, living in the South [where The Walking Dead is filmed] has been a great reminder of those things. It’s a place where people have a little bit more time for each other and their priorities, it’s almost like when you’re in California people are afraid to say they want to find a really wonderful man, who’s patient and wants children and will be a fantastic father and treat them really well,” she says, it should be noted, not in response to any specific question. “Why would anyone ever shy from expressing that desire in their life? But, there can be a stigma against acknowledging that you need another person in your life. I’ve definitely felt the need to appear super strong and independent and that’s just not true. I don’t want to be independent. I want to rely on someone and have someone rely on me. Admitting that you want that is not weak and it’s not needy. It’s actually really beautiful.”
And suddenly, you’re wishing Lauren Cohan actually was that woman she reminds you of, and you wish that That Woman said something like that to you. Only, it sounds better in Lauren Cohan’s accent.
Plus, Lauren Cohan knows how to kill zombies