Armed with her signature katana, Danai Gurira and her character Michonne cut an iconic figure like few others in nearly a decade on The Walking Dead. She’s gone toe-to-toe with iconic villains, lead armies, raised a family and became the center of the TWD experience.
“I was on set on Danai’s last day,” says Kang, “She just brings so much beautiful emotion to everything she does. I love the work she’s done. It was special to see her finish her run on the show.”
Gimple agrees, “I’m thrilled with how the episode turned out. It just meant everything to honor her journey and who this character was.”
The final episode brought Michonne full circle, as it began with the alternate version of her first scene in which she saved Andrea and showed an alternate timeline of events.
According to Gimple, “With this last episode, we talked about honoring who Michonne was and what she became from making the choices that led her to the people around her. She chose to help Andrea and that changed her life. That choice was so important and defining of who she was. In the end, even though she has this incredible revelation about Rick and the seeming potential of being on his trail, somebody asks for help and who is she? She is someone who just can’t let these people die.”
Showing that she’ll always make that choice is the essence of Michonne embodied.
But the episode was about more than just how Michonne’s choices could’ve turned out differently. It was about family.
“I love the final scene that she has with Judith in her final episode when they’re on the walkie together. That relationship is so beautiful,” says Kang “This woman who lost her own child in the apocalypse found a family again and has been this amazing parent to this young girl, who’s growing up in the apocalypse.”
Unsurprisingly, given the primacy of family and relationships in Michonne’s journey, both Kang and Gimple believe her relationship with Rick was a critical part of what made the character special.
“Another scene that I love is a scene that I wrote, actually. It’s in Season 6 and it’s Episode 10. It’s the scene where Michonne and Rick finally get together. My marching orders to write this story were to make it casual,” says Kang, “At the time, I had been freaking out about writing about them getting together because there was nothing in the prior episode to set it up.”
“We jumped time and played with that dynamic that happens with people who’ve known each other for a long time and it turns into something more. It’s really memorable for me because it was a very important moment for Danai.”
But the seeds were planted years before that and Gimple, for his part, had been shipping Richonne for years.
“In my heart of hearts – as a writer/producer and before I became Showrunner – I always thought Rick and Michonne would wind up with each other. I didn’t want to push it, but I did seed it in,” he says.
“There’s a scene in “Clear” [Season 3, Episode 12] where Rick, Carl and Michonne arrive at the old sheriff station where Rick worked and there’s a moment [between Rick and Michonne] that I put in the script where I wanted to think there was some sort of subtext and connection.”
While even the most ardent fans missed this moment for years, “Danai, being a writer, picked up on it quickly and played it out and never let it go. She knew I wanted them to wind up together.”
Kang agrees that Gurira was critical to making sure the Richonne romance played out correctly and played a part in seeding that storyline.
“She had been pushing for these two to get together for a long time and she wanted it to be right. There’s this moment of surprise and joy about it finally happening and they both do a great job in the scene. This was an important scene both for Danai and for the evolution of Michonne as a character going forward in the series,” she says.
Unsurprisingly then, given the importance of these moments between Michonne and Rick, Kang called the following scene in Season 3, Episode 12 written by Gimple her “absolute favorite scene”:
“They go back to Rick’s hometown and he runs across Morgan again. Michonne and Carl go on a side mission to get Judith’s crib, but Carl really wants to go back to get a picture of his family. As far as he knows, it’s the last remaining picture of him and his mother and father together. They go and sneak around and Michonne wants to get out of there, but Carl needs the picture. Michonne looks at him and she’s been so tough up until this point and you just see something in her. She does it for him. She gets it done and comes out with the picture and she also comes out with this crazy cat statue. [Laughs] I love this scene because it shows that while she’s a warrior, she has an incredible heart and a really bizarre sense of humor that comes out in wonderful ways.”
Still, any discussion of Michonne, her legacy and her best moments wouldn’t be complete without some of her death-defying fight scenes.
“Another one that I really like is in Season 4 where she kills the Governor. Well, she actually doesn’t finish him. She stabs him and she saves Rick. I think that was an important turning point for her character,” says Kang, “It’s really satisfying because she hated that guy for so long and the things he did. It’s interesting that she ultimately stabs him, knows he’s dead but walks away. It’s just so badass. She’s looking at him like, ‘I’m going to let you suffer for a bit’ It says a lot about the complex colors that she has within her. She’s amazing.”
While there are almost too many wonderful battles featuring Michonne to count, Gimple has a favorite badass moment of his own, “the episode called Hounded [Season 3, Episode 6], that I wrote. In it, there is a lot of crazy stuff, including Michonne leaving Merle a message using walker parts.”
The brutal battle is genuinely memorable and stands out after all these years, as is the bloody aftermath for Gimple’s hotel room.
“I had a sequence where Michonne ends up on the ground during a walker attack, slashes open a walker’s stomach and she’s below it. It was like releasing a gruesome jackpot. Danai and I were just getting to know each other and the day that she did it, she winds up covered in Greg Nicotero’s and KNB’s amazing gut work and she immediately stands up and gives me the biggest hug in the world. I was staying at a hotel out there and they were doing my laundry, so I had to leave a note to say that it was fake blood. [Laughs]”
Watch the Cast and Creators Break Down Michonnne’s Journey:
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