Danai Gurira, who plays Michonne on AMC’s The Walking Dead, talks about being without her sword and trying to save Tyreese’s life.
Q: Robert Kirkman told us about bringing Michonne’s backstory onto the series. What did you think about her past life?
A: I loved being able to portray her as who she was. She was someone who was cultured, alternative, well-read and very smart. She was not conventional at all. I loved being able to show that component of her. It’s such a great contrast of what we saw of her when she first came on the scene.
Q: Which Michonne do you think you’re more similar to — pre-apocalypse or post?
A: I don’t think I’m as well-versed as her. [Laughs] I think I have similarities to both Michonnes. I’m finding a lot in this post-apocalyptic Michonne that does have parallels to me. I can understand her journey and how she’s become very ferocious. I get it.
Q: If you really had pet walkers, what would you name them?
A: Probably just One and Two.
Q: Can you talk about the Season 5 Midseason Finale where you take down a walker with Judith on your back? Do you think you could open up an apocalypse day care with those skills?
A: [Laughs] Absolutely! I think the old Michonne would have just stayed in that church and taken out every walker, but with a baby on her back, she wasn’t going to risk that. So, she took down quite a few and then bailed. It’s an interesting difference in her behavior and to figure it all out in her brain.
Q: What tricks have you picked up to get through the physicality of shooting?
A: Sometimes we have to pour cold water through my wig. That’s a big one. Now I drink a gallon of water a day. You have to hydrate and it’s all about cooling your body down as quickly and effectively as possible.
Q: After he kills his first walker, Michonne tells Gabriel, “It gets easier.” Does it also get easier for an actor to kill zombies?
A: It does get easier. I enjoyed my very first kill in my first episode. I was ready to get in there! I always relish in doing some kills and figuring out how to do them in a way that works.
Q: Even the sewage walkers?
A: The zombies were so hilarious-looking and gushy. I don’t know what that stuff was. They were my favorite, but it was disgusting and very different. They had been in that water so long and it felt bizarrely real. I had to ask if the water was chlorinated.
Q: What is one arena where you would never want Michonne to have to face walkers?
A: One where she’s incapacitated or where she can’t be alert. She wants to always have access to her abilities.
Q: At the beginning of Season 5, Michonne is without her katana. How did you adjust to using a new weapon?
A: It did feel weird, but it taught me a lot about her. What I realized is that she is not empowered by the sword. The sword is empowered by her. That was really interesting to discover. If she doesn’t have a sword, she can still make do. This chick is what makes the sword work and not just anyone can pick it up.
Q: Michonne is the one to slice off Tyreese’s arm after he gets bit in Episode 509. Was that a tough scene to film?
A: It was very intense. There’s something amazing that Andrew Lincoln always brings. He brings the tone and the power of who he is to the scene and there was a powerful energy. Michonne has cut a lot of arms and legs off in her time, but there was a lot of trauma and pressure involved. She’s never done this before. [Tyreese] was one of their own and it was really on her to save his life.
Q: If you were in that position, would you want your crew to do the same for you?
A: If it’s about saving my life, yeah. If you lose a limb, you can figure it out. Hershel was okay before The Governor got to him. It’s doable. I rather do without a limb than lose my life.