Danai Gurira, who plays Michonne on AMC’s The Walking Dead, discusses how Episode 13‘s alternate, “evil” Michonne helps her character stand in her truth, plus how she feels ending this chapter in her career.
Q: How does it feel to have closed such a long chapter of your career?
A: You know, it was amazing, it was bittersweet, it was painful, it was beautiful – it was all those things at once. I’m so thankful for the time I got to spend playing this character, and with this amazing Walking Dead family. It’s been such a blessing. And leaving the show was painfully bittersweet, but it was a beautiful sendoff I received through the work I got to do with this episode. It is something that I’ll always be thankful for and proud of being a part of.
Q: Was filming this last episode emotional for you? What about your co-stars and crew members?
A: Yeah, definitely. I remember I was doing the stuff for the Saviors part, so I had just shot Glenn and it was horrible. [Laughs] But I was in my Saviors getup and it was my last take, so it was a bit of a mind warp in and of itself. But it was a very sad, bittersweet moment. A lot of people to say goodbye to and a lot of people to give my love and appreciation to. It was very sad.
Q: Michonne largely held it together after Rick’s disappearance and presumed death, but seems to break down a bit in Episode 13. As an actress, how did it feel to break that stoic demeanor?
A: It felt good for her to rest, and to see her in this whole other dimension and other realm of desperation and being out of control. It was very maddening, for the character, which I thought was good to explore that part of her as we’re in her final chapter, to see this state that she would never want to go otherwise, and the only way you could really do that in the show is to drag her there involuntarily. [Laughs] So that’s exactly what had to happen! So narratively, I thought that was great.
Q: What was it like playing an alternate, “evil” version of Michonne who killed her friends in her hallucinations?
A: You know, the scary part is that it made sense that she could have gone that way, but for one decision that she made when she was very disconnected from her own humanity. You learn, however many seasons ago, the losses she’s experienced, her son and all these things, and how she just sort of shuts down and becomes this woman who walks around with these walkers… That choice to save Andrea or not to save Andrea, if it had gone any other way, who would she have become? She very easily could have become that person who did not choose humanity, who did not show humanity to others, did not receive it back, and then when she did receive some sort of a helping hand from the wrong source, being Negan, to just go into a spiral of being his right-hand person. I could actually imagine that. And maybe one day she’d break out of it in some way, but I can see that being her journey and her being on the other side of the family. So that was quite frightening to imagine.
When we filmed it, the Andrea footage wasn’t part of it, I was just looking at nothing. To see the combined footage of what we did, with her running and fighting… and then Michonne just standing there, and hearing her cries as she’s being killed – it was very chilling to me… because one bad choice could have led Michonne down such a different, dark path.
Q: Do you think Michonne herself is in a good place emotionally as Episode 13 ends?
A: Yes, I do. I think she does. She’s being true to that part of herself. She sees her humanity. To help these people at the end is very much the way she knows she needs to move forward. After these parts of herself that she’s revisited, she knows she’s made the right choice, and that she’s largely made the right choices all along the way. To turn away these people in desperate need of help would be to turn away from that person she just affirmed herself to be. Even though her journey about finding Rick is to explore this possibility of him being alive, she has to stay true to herself. It’s about making that choice she made for Andrea again. We don’t know where that will lead her, but we know she’s in her truth.
Q: Speaking of hard choices, did you have a favorite episode to film from your time on The Walking Dead?
A: Oh there’s so many. There’s so much fun we’ve had, so much we’ve had to explore. There’s so many things you have fun doing because of the crew behind the camera. There’s so many. I’d have to sit and write them all down because there’s a great deal of times I really, so deeply enjoyed what I was allowed to do on that show.
Q: What projects are you most excited for your fans to see moving forward?
A: It’s so hard to even think that way right now, because everything is paused. There are things in the works, there are things I’m excited to create and excited for people to see, even if I haven’t put them on the page yet. There’s so many things. There were things that were very clearly marked out, but now they’ll just fall where they fall. I’m excited about Americanah, and I’m excited about Black Panther 2. There are things I’m looking forward to creating. It’s all very different.
Q: What are you most proud of from your time on the show?
A: I’m proud of the connections, the friendships and the family. It’s a really beautiful, healthy working environment that I deeply respect and appreciate. I know one cannot take for granted how healthy and loving that family is, and how we bond together to make this not-the-easiest-show-in-the-world-to-make, by the way. [Laughs] But we bond together and make it work year after year after year, and that’s the present core of it, this very healthy family of cast and crew. So that is something that I’m very proud of having been part of, and having witnessed, and hope to take with me wherever I go.
Watch the Cast and Creators Break Down Michonnne’s Journey:
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