By Henry Hanks
Editor’s note: Warning: This story contains spoilers.
(CNN) — She had the most memorable entrance of any character on “The Walking Dead” so far.
Just as Andrea was about to be set upon by a herd of walkers, a shadowy figure dispatched them — with a Katana sword. It was one of the standout moments of the season two finale, and we would soon learn that this person’s name was Michonne, a quiet warrior who had seemingly mastered how to survive in the zombie apocalypse (one bright idea: bring along a couple of chained walkers with no hands or mouths to draw away the others).
Ever since that moment, Michonne, played by Danai Gurira, has been rivaled only by Daryl Dixon in terms of rabid fans. At times, she is a silent force of nature, but has opened up a good deal to the rest of the survivors lately.
The season’s midway point having ended with (spoiler alert!) a brutal attack on the prison, sending the group off in different directions, not to mention the horrifying death of Hershel. CNN spoke with Gurira about what fans can expect when the season returns on Sunday.
CNN: Michonne has been through a lot already. Where is her head after the attack at the prison?
Gurira: It was deeply trying for her and a major loss for her. The idea of finally connecting with people — that’s not easy for her at all. She’s very guarded and really has serious armor on. She’s slowly letting that armor chip away, opening up to people. She actually spent some time being in this community full time, so to have this happen under her watch, and to see all the trauma it causes, and the things she was trying to avoid, is very traumatic to her. She’s still just starting to invest again in people.
She has suffered great loss and it’s a question of how she responds to it. There are a couple of ways it could go down. We’ll have to see which road she takes.
CNN: She lost a good friend in Andrea last year, and now more loss. Does she still feel a connection to this group? Would you describe her as very loyal?
Gurira: Even in the first episode this season, you see how she’s very connected to Carl, bringing him comic books and candy. There are tons of little moments between her and Daryl as well. In terms of her opening up to the group, she’s become very connected.
Yes, she was very loyal to Andrea, very loyal to the people with whom she goes outside of the prison. She risks her life for them. She actually really wants the best for these people. Most recently, she didn’t run away, she went back to make sure that Rick wasn’t killed by the Governor.
CNN: Where are things headed for the rest of season four? Is there a big difference from the first half?
Gurira: It’s gonna be a very different tone. You see people going in different directions, you don’t know who’s going to align with whom, who’s going to make it. It’s going to be a whole different tone from what’s been done before on the show. It’s going to be very exciting and thrilling, and no one knows what’s coming next. There will be very powerful moments, and very powerful character developments.
CNN: Did you have to learn any different forms of fighting or different stunts this season?
Gurira: I always like trying out different things. There are always ways that the writers will write something that will allow me to attack it in a different way. Absolutely — we try to make things a little different than they were last time. There’s always that journey I’m taking with the physical demands of the character — I want to do as many different things as I can!
CNN: This show has a very passionate fan base, and there is certainly a big fan base for Michonne in particular. Does this still surprise you?
Gurira: It’s a worldwide thing now. I was in Zimbabwe and there were fans there who would stop me on the street. It does still take me aback how much the show has resonated across culture, class and creed.
CNN: Any interesting fan moments lately?
Gurira: The one that comes to mind most immediately are two different guys who have me tattooed to them, so that was a little shocking and unexpected. I’ve seen about three now like that.
CNN: Do you think Michonne can be seen as someone to look up to, or do you try to play her that way?
Gurira: What you have to do as an artist is invest your character with as much life and dimension, and stick to what’s written. You stay true to that — you don’t think “let me make this character someone to look up to.” I don’t know how to play that. All you can do is function in the character that’s been crafted. However she resonates, I just have to go with that. You really can’t bank on that. The beauty of the show is that — and I share this with her — we’re not people pleasers.
And the writers are amazing, so they know exactly how to give her a story that’s rich — we have wonderful conversations and I’m able to collaborate with them in terms of what they’re going for, and I give my all to that fiction.
CNN: What has been the toughest scene for you so far?
Gurira: Shooting the Hershel death scene was very difficult emotionally for us. It was very tough. That was definitely way up there.
CNN: Do you own an action figure of Michonne?
Gurira: I get given them, I don’t go out and buy them. There’s been a lot of stuff lately, so I don’t know if I’ve kept up with it! The initial stuff that came out, I definitely have most of it. I’ve given away some of it.
CNN: Was it interesting to see yourself as an action figure?
Gurira: It was, it was! The first time I got the model — it was very different and unexpected. It wasn’t something I thought of in acting school. It was pretty darn cool! “When I get into the world, I want to have an action figure!” I never dreamed that dream, but to see it was very cool.
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