"Walking Dead" fans who are dreading the seemingly inevitable departure of Lauren Cohan have a reason to be (cautiously) optimistic: None other than the show's leading man, Andrew Lincoln, said he "would be surprised" if the actress wasn't back for season nine.

Lincoln's comments, made in an interview with the UK's The Independent, were in response to the ongoing dispute between Cohan and AMC, reportedly over Cohan's salary. The actress, who has been with the zombie drama since season two, is one of the longest-tenured stars of the show, and was reportedly seeking parity -- or close to it -- with male costars Lincoln and Norman Reedus, and has not yet signed on for another season of the show.

While that argument was playing out, Cohan's agents put her up for several pilots, one of which she booked: ABC spy series "Whiskey Cavalier," co-starring Scott Foley. Booking a pilot is by no means a guarantee that Cohan will leave "TWD," but it certainly doesn't help her chances of staying, either, especially if the show is picked up.

Lincoln's statement to The Independent, however, makes it sound like AMC is doing everything in its power to keep Cohan on the show -- at least, if her character winds up surviving the impending season eight finale.

Here's Lincoln's full comments on the matter:

"Lauren is a good friend and wonderful actress. What she has created with the role of Maggie has had an enormous impact on the world of The Walking Dead. I would be surprised if Maggie Rhee wasn't leading from the front as she always has done next season. That is, of course, if she and Rick make it through the next four episodes."

As the death of Carl proved this season, there's no guarantee that any of these characters will make it to season nine, and Maggie's death would certainly be a surprise. Still, it's nice to see that the "Walking Dead" cast is behind Cohan all the way. We'll see if AMC -- or the show's writers -- feels the same way.

[via: The Independent, h/t TheWrap]