If last week's episode of The Walking Dead was a kiss for Andrea fans, tonight's was quite a treat for admirers of Michonne, that mysterious warrior queen played by Danai Gurira. Other than her skill with swords and distrust for most people with a pulse, we haven't learned much about Michonne...until tonight. Now we know that Michonne can and does open up to people, even in this harsh post-apocalyptic world, but on her own terms and according to her own code.
We caught up with the fabulous actress and playwright Gurira to discuss her character's evolution and what tonight's episode meant for her.
I imagine it must be kind of freeing, in a way, to have a character who expresses herself so much through a weapon like the katana.
I have always been a physical person. Even in my theater work, in my plays that I create, I like to give actors a workout. I love that sort of release, being able to connect with a weapon and speak through a weapon, with that being Michonne's language and her security blanket. It's a very powerful connection. I had never really been a character who had been so defined, in some ways, through her weapon. It's so original to come up with a character who uses this sword as her voice, in a sense.
Tonight your character revealed a bit of herself and her past: Like Rick, she's spoken to a dead loved one, in her case a boyfriend. How much have you delved into the past of your character? And will we get to see more of it?
That is something that Michonne herself wouldn't want revealed quickly and easily. It wouldn't be true to telling her story. It's going to eke out how it ekes out. You're not going to see her revealed in full color. Do you need to know every second of her life? Michonne comes to this story when she is already transformed into her post-apocalyptic self. We don't see her past traumas; that's the beauty of the story being told now. That's what makes this story true and real. We're not in a world were everyone gets to tell a storybook story with a storybook beginning.
What did the episode really say about Michonne?
With these last two episodes for Michonne—talking to Andrea and then connecting with Carl and connecting with Rick--I think that those things are about Michonne healing. She's had a very specific experience with Merle and the Governor, and now, to me, she's really connecting to a part of herself that she put away prior to now. The ability to connect with people and be a part of a team, her ability to work in a community...Her journey is about reconnecting to the heart of herself.
And she chooses to accept Rick and Carl.
Here's the thing that's great about Michonne: She's very instinctual. When she sees the Governor, she sees a bad guy. She can tell by how he's running his ship. She can see through it. But she can also see through Rick's gruffness towards her, that this is someone she can align with. He's is the one who didn't welcome her, but she can still see, "This is where I need to be. I can respect that man." She can see through it all. And that's why she is able to talk to Rick. She is the first person to really address him about his grief that directly.
That reticence of Michonne, that mystery: You do know it's driving fans crazy with curiosity, right? They want more more more! Especially when other characters on the show are such yappers in comparison.
That's good drama! That's a great dynamic! We have yappers, and we have the ones who aren't revealing a lot. I have to commend my bosses for making that really good storytelling. That's real. That's how it would be: Some people would be trying to work things out through words, and others who would say, "Why should I share my past? It doesn't work, it accomplishes nothing." That was a very powerful and smart choice in terms of how Michonne was crafted.
Will Michonne and Andrea ever really reconcile? Will she ever get revenge on the Gov or Merle?
She can't understand why Andrea couldn't see what was right in front her...in terms of what happens next, I can't say. You'll have to ask my bosses!
I can understand why she, Rick and Carl wouldn't stop to help a stranger on the side of the road. And yet, I can't. I thought about it for a long time.
I thought it was brilliant. That's war. You have to pick and choose your battles. I was talking to a woman in Liberia, and she'd had to deal with things that were very similar, where you just can't help everyone you pass on the side of the road. When things are dire, when things are that scarce, when you can't trust anybody, you have to create your own protocol. It's going to make some viewers very uncomfortable. They want their heroes. But what you saw on the show, that's real. That's what was brilliant about it: It rang so true.