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Walking Dead's Danai Gurira: the ultimate shero

Written by TVSA Team from the blog Interviews on 03 Apr 2013
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Danai Interview Pic 21

Danai Interview 22

Season 3 was Danai Gurira's first season on The Walking Dead and she's proven to be so brilliantly explosive that Rick eventually accepted Michonne into his world in last night's bloody finale that ended with partial victory against The Governor.

Sadly it came at the extreme cost of losing Andrea who was doomed the moment she stopped Michonne from killing The Governor. It was gutting to see Michonne suffer with her but so true and essential to what we now know of her character.
 
Danai Interview 35

I caught up with Danai to find out more about her and the future of Michonne, who's officially become the coolest emblem of girl power - my ultimate shero.

Here's what she had to say:

Danai Interview Pic 24Tashi: In terms of your Zimbabwean/American heritage … do you consider yourself to be Zimbabwean or American?
Danai: I’m Zimerican! My parents were in the United States for over 20 years so I was raised there until I was about five or six and then I grew up in Zim, which I’m very thankful for because that really allowed me to know who I was.

I’ve probably spent half my life in each place … probably more years in the States now because of my adult life - I love that I’m both. I think being bi-cultural allows me a very deep appreciation of various cultures.

It also allows me to understand and be very keen about bringing the specificity of the African voice to the Western sphere which I try to do a lot with my theatre especially. That’s great to me because I’m able to navigate the one realm and the other.

I’m very happy to be that mix - it makes sense to me as an adult ... it allows me to navigate two very different worlds.

Danai Interview Pic 23

Tashi: How has your identity impacted on your portrayal of Michonne?
Danai: I wrote a play called Eclipsed which was about Liberian women during the war there. Michonne to me reminds me of the women rebel fighters who I researched and met during my time of research.

That’s what really connected me to the story as a whole, even as I was auditioning. The most real thing I could connect The Walking Dead to is the Liberian war zone - it connects so much with how I think Michonne created herself. She’s like those women who became very formidable rebel fighters, like Black Diamond and the others.

That sort of story, of a woman who’s gone through a lot of trauma and who’s been in a situation where the structures around her that need to protect her are gone - she refuses to be a victim and becomes a scary warrior who you can barely read. You never know who she really is or what she’s gonna do next.

Danai Interview 34

Tashi: Do you have as much of a girlcrush on her as I do?
Danai: You know, I do. The thing I love about her is that she’s not going down easy. I love winners, I love people who just don’t go down easy - I love people who are not people pleasers -  people who’re just not willing to go down without a good fight.

I love that she’s something that men have to seriously reckon with. They can’t brush her aside in any way, shape or form - they have to really take her into account - in a way that they don’t have to take many other women into account.

The “hell hath no fury” thing … when a woman gets that formidable she goes on a power strike - that men don’t have. They don’t quite have the threat of power that women have - when we tap into that thing. She’s a little scary to men and I kind of love that. I do love her, she’s great.

Tashi: If we want to pull a move with a katana sword, what tip can you give us that’ll make us look as cool as possible?
Danai: You have to hold the sword with your right hand, just underneath that scabbard on the top - right under the disc. You have to hold it flat and as you swipe you have to go from right to left with the other hand balancing the bottom of the handle. Keep your arms very level - you can’t lift them up above shoulder length - that can hurt when you try it for the first time - it’s not a joke.

Tashi: Do you bend your arms in that position?
Danai: That depends … it depends on where you want to strike. Your elbow will naturally bend, especially the left one when you go from left to right.

Danai Interview 31

Tashi: Michonne’s style and threads are the bomb too - the epitome of cool. What’s your fave item of her clothing?
Danai: Oh gosh, I love what she wore in Episode 12 - I love that shirt. Eulyn - she’s actually from Cape Town - Eulyn Womble, the costume designer - I love her to death.

I love the first outfit Michonne wore, the little vest - I really did love that but then I loved the shirt as well. A shirt with orange in the middle and cream on the sides. It’s an extremely cool and simultaneously sexy shirt.

I love the gloves, I love the belt - she always wears the same belt - I love the grey trousers. There are so many things.

Danai Interview 32

Tashi: She has a range of things.
Danai: Yes, she switches up. She wore the first outfit for several episodes and people were like, “Really?!” That was kind of true to the world, especially when she was at the Governor’s - it was a kind of protest. Then she changed it up.

Tashi: You must have had all sorts of mindboggling interactions with fans? What’s the craziest fan response you’ve ever experienced?
Danai: Not the craziest but definitely the coolest was this girl telling me that Michonne made her feel strong enough to quit her job which was quite something. She made her stand up to her boss and quit her job where she was being mistreated. I was like “Okay, wow, that’s really kinda cool.”

I’ve met other people who dress like her - sometimes it’s a little shocking and jarring how far they go *laughs*. I’m like “Guys, guys, it’s okay, don’t go that far.” That was at a Comic-Con a few weeks ago were I was like, “Wow, okay.”

Tashi: Ja, those people at Comic-Con go berserk don’t they?
Danai: They do, they really do - they’re usually quite lovely, they’re just really avid fans of all ages. It’s amazing … some are older than you’d think would watch the show and some are lot younger than you think would watch the show. 10-year-olds, four-year-olds who know the show backwards - it’s crazy.

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Tashi: Apparently the show advised you that you should never look at the internet ever again when you landed the role. Have you looked at it? Do you? Have you stuck to their advice?
Danai: I do check out the internet, I’m not that frail - I think we all do. I do check it out -  that’s how I learnt I had a fake Twitter account. How did I learn I had a fake account? ... *Thinking*

I have a new fake Twitter now … I have to tell the people at AMC so they can check it out. Now they call themselves DanaiGurira1. I’m like "God, leave me alone.”

I found out about my first fake Twitter account through my co-actress Laurie Holden (Andrea) … she said “Oh, you were tweeted about that too.” I was like “I wasn’t tweeted, I don’t tweet,” and she was like “Yes you do,” and I was like “No, I don’t.”

It was really … I felt quite violated - I was like “What the hell?!” and it was this person making these comments like “Check out my pictures,” “Look at my this,” “Here’s a review of my …”

I’m just not that kind of person, I just don’t do that. My sister was like “Oh my God, it’s so cheesy!”

We had it shut down and now a new one’s popped up. I prefer to possess my own voice, not have other people take my name but it happens to all of us. I know that Andy Lincoln (Rick) never ever looks at the internet - I’ll check out recap episodes and things like that - I’m not able to watch episodes because I’ve been travelling for a month and a half so I’ll check out the recaps, see how the episodes wrap.

I know Andy doesn’t look at any of it - I should tell him that he has a ton of fake people on Facebook. He doesn’t care - which is probably the best attitude.

We’ve just shut down a fake instagrammer who’d just opened up. She only had two pictures - I don’t where she was pirating the pictures of me. There’s one of me and Norman Reedus on the set and I’m like “How did she get her hands on this?” It’s so creepy.

Danai Interview 33

Tashi: Can we expect any sort of romantic relationship for Michonne in the future?
Danai: She definitely does in the book, good God. She really is quite a … oh yeah. In the first 10 pages of her arrival she’s … busy. In the book version she takes Tyreese away from Carol - which is nothing like the show at all.

Tashi: I wonder why they didn’t keep that in?
Danai: It’s a lot, it’s too extracted ‘cos it’s such a big story in the book. It would be so predictable because it happens in the book, everyone would know it was coming.

Tashi: What’s the most fascinating thing about filming the show?
Danai: I guess just living in this realm, acting with people who are dead people, you’re acting with gore and grime and you’re acting in a way that’s insanely unglamorous. I love that, I love that we just get down and dirty.

I’ll look pretty when I walk the red carpet somewhere but today it’s all about the filth and the grime of the apocalypse with all these dead zombies around her. I think that really is fascinating - I don’t think everyone else gets to go to work and put on grime and dirt.

It’s all pretty fascinating, it’s original - it was never something I imagined I’d do with my career but I love it.

Danai Interview 42

Tashi: Do the actors go for days without bathing?
Danai: It’s funny because the make-up artists are so great. They don’t have to do this on me because I’m nice and chocolate brown but the other actors - my Caucasian male actors certainly - they get to the dressing room and they’re all like clean and squeaky white and then they get covered in this gucky, greasy stuff and they turn into this whole other hue - it’s very funny.

We also literally drip in sweat. I’ve been working a lot with Andy in the second half of the season and that guy, he’ll get dripping with sweat. He works so intensely - he just gives his all.

Girls sweat less so I was like "Man, this poor guy,” - he’s just giving it his all, it’s a lot of work being in the show. It’s very encouraging and inspiring to see - he gives so much of himself and it encourages all of us to continue to do the same which is really great.



1 Comment

Kjo
04 Apr 2013 18:38

Go Danai Go


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