The biggest character reveal in season 3 of Walking Dead is the sword wielding Michonne. She's the cold, calculated warrior who shows up with two walkers chained to her hip — as protection. This is both insanely fucked up and totally awesome.
So we asked Danai Gurira, who plays Michonne, to explain her character's extreme behavior. What kind of person rips out the jaws and arms off former human beings? A smart one, apparently. Minor spoilers ahead...
What are some of the difficulties with playing such a closed off, hard person. What are the challenges with bringing someone like that to life?
Danai Gurira: It really is about connecting with someone who is that intense. She's just extremely intense and strategic. She considers communication to be something you just don't play with. You use it very specifically — you use it at specific times. So she has a very focused mind, and sometimes my mind is a little messy. So it is really is about connecting to her in that way, and really adjusting to her mindset. Sometimes it is about closing off, and walking on set and no interacting with everybody, because she wouldn't. Sometimes that's a little tricky because you want to say, "Morning!" but I'm getting into my mode, she's not going to be talking to everybody and all joyous. There is that trickiness sometimes and I kind of have to let her take control which means I'm a lot less of what you see right now.
She is very complex at the same time. She has heart, and you know that it's rooted in trauma, rooted in experiences that lead her to recreate herself, so that she can be powerful in a hostile world. I think people understand that, they see the layers. They see that she's not just being harsh — they see that her heart is actually completely pure. And what you're seeing on the outside is the way she's recreated herself to handle a very, very, very hostile world. And actually to champion that as opposed to being a victim of that. I think people gravitate towards that. You can see her heart is pure.
But what kind of messed up person thinks: "I'm in a zombie apocalypse if I rip these two peoples' jaws off and their arms off, it will be the perfect cover?"
Danai Gurira: That is not at all a messed up person. That is actually a person who is really resourceful and really smart. Because other people are running from the zombies saying, "I'm so scared, they're gonna eat me." This woman is like, "I am the superior life form. These are inferior life forms. And I shall utilize them to my benefit." You want to be that chick — you don't want to be the person running around, scared as heck. You want to know that if I cut off their arms and their jaws they are useless, and I can use them as my pack mules. That's a smart individual, you want to be her.
Taken at the Entertainment Weekly party red carpet at Comic Con.