‘The Walking Dead’: Danai Gurira Talks Rick and Michonne’s Surprising Choice

"The Walking Dead" Season 6 michonne
Courtesy of AMC

Spoiler warning: The following interview includes plot details from “The Walking Dead” Season 6, episode 10, titled “The Next World.”

Valentine’s Day came a week late to “The Walking Dead.” Fans have watched Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Michonne (Danai Gurira) develop a strong friendship over the past four seasons, but the possibility always existed that they could become more than friends. That possibility became a reality in tonight’s episode — set two months after the death of Rick’s former flame Jessie (Alexandra Breckenridge), the loss of Carl’s (Chandler Riggs) eye and the rebuilding of Alexandria as a fierce walker-fighting community.

Variety spoke with Michonne herself, Danai Gurira, about why this was the right time to take the next step with Rick, what a full-fledged Richonne relationship might look like, closing the set for that final scene and welcoming back Tovah Feldshuh (Deanna) for a moving goodbye.

How much did you know about this episode before you got the script?

I had an understanding of how things could end up going… Mr. Gimple kept things pretty close to his chest, but it was becoming clear this was coming. We had chats about the idea of [Rick and Michonne’s] intimacy and their relationship before anything was happening — what it is and what it could be.

And what did you think when you read it?

I had a pretty good inkling something was coming soon between the characters, but when I read it I was still kind of surprised. There was something surprising seeing those names on the page doing that. Seeing it in writing was like, “Whoaaaa!” I was kind of thrown.

Have you been waiting for this moment yourself?

We have a lot of fans who are very much about these two being together and they were picking up on something that was definitely there. I picked up on something since the episode “Clear” in season 3. Mr. Gimple had written that episode. He wasn’t making all the calls at that point, it was before he was showrunner, but we actually chatted about it even then.

For Michonne, Rick is the one man she could respect and felt she could align with. She had been in a world where her ex had caused the death of her son — and meeting men like the Governor, men like Merle, she was shut off to the idea of aligning with a man or a group of people. It was not her style when we met her. [Rick] was the one man she really got, she understood and she saw his heart. She’d heard about him from Andrea but she really understood this was a man trying to do the right thing. There was something about him that made her feel aligned. That was why she did join the group. The people were great, but the leader was someone she could align with.

Did it feel like it was always planned for the characters to get together?

I think that really grew. I think Mr. Gimple was playing a very long game with it, which is very impressive. He didn’t want us to get ahead of it which is why we were never informed — we chatted but he never explicitly told me. That was really smart because it really was about the characters staying in the moment of the journey of how intimate they became as friends over these seasons. In terms of everything: their mutual connection to Carl, the way she trusts him and he trusts her, the way they can talk to each other with a glance, they work really closely together — it was something that was definitely building over the course of the seasons.

We felt these characters had a very interesting connection, but it was in the realm of friendship until it wasn’t. I think the timing is really perfect because the last episode they bonded even more deeply as a result of what happened and almost losing Carl. They seamlessly worked as a team to save him and get him to Denise. It was really clear to me how much [Michonne] loved both [Rick and Carl]. When she had one on the table but couldn’t do anything more for him and the other one walked out the door into the fray — I really felt like this was the first time I was experiencing Michonne panicking. She really could not bear the idea of losing both of them in one day. She had to do all she could to not let that happen.

The bonding of that experience and the fact they have a newly formed life now — it’s two months later, they get Carl back, and they’re able to rebuild Alexandria. Rick transformed as well. He’s able to take on all that Deanna used to say and that Michonne would encourage him to believe — to come to Alexandria and consider himself one of these people. He’s now much more hopeful and I think that’s something that appeals to Michonne as well. They’re in a place where they can actually allow their hearts to express themselves. Things are stable and better, they have a new lease on life.

How often do fans ask you about Rick and Michonne?

All the time. I don’t get through anything without that. I don’t get through a panel, an interview, anything. I’ve had very close friends who I didn’t even realize watch the show — lawyers, PhD types — who had me in a corner, pinned back, like, “Why? Why isn’t he with her?” And I’m sitting there thinking, “Oh God, wait until the 21st…” But instead I have to say, “They’re friends and that’s really important.” I [was] spinning my wheels trying to deflect.

Sexual relationships aren’t explored very often on “The Walking Dead,” and this is a first for Michonne. Even though her relationship with Rick has been building for a long time, are you worried some fans might reject seeing them become more than friends?

What I thought was great about it was it’s really submission to the organic progression of two characters. That’s what I like. I like storytelling that’s truthful. The idea of saying we shouldn’t do it because with certain types of characters you don’t want to see that side of them, it sounds like an imposed concept rather than following a story’s organic progression.

To me that sounds like copping out of going in a direction these characters are naturally going in. They’re living in the same house for God’s sake. They have so much in common and they’re so connected that it just makes sense they find each other this way. And it would be strange if Michonne never explored this part of herself. She is a full woman. As a playwright, when I’ve researched war zones — people fall in love in war zones because they’re in a life and death circumstance and they’re able to get to the truth of things.

What do you expect Rick and Michonne’s relationship will be like? Will they be as deeply connected as Glenn and Maggie or more casual like Abraham and Rosita?

They’ve come through too much together as a unit. They’ve trusted each other with their lives. He’s trusted her with his children’s lives. They’ve gone through some very hard moments together. She’s knocked him out and schooled him on things, he’s schooled her back. He’s been the leader that she’s followed. I think there’s a lot of intimacy there. To realize this person who is very close to being your best friend is actually also someone who you have feelings for and you find deeply attractive in a whole other way — I don’t think that translates to casual, to me. They’re deeply intimate friends and now they’re lovers. It’s not the makings of any of the relationships [already on the show], it’s its own thing.

How was it filming that final scene when Jesus (Tom Payne) comes into the bedroom and you and Andy Lincoln jump out of bed?

Oh, it was interesting. A closed set on “The Walking Dead” means about 10 men in the room, but we’re very much family. It was ultimately fun. Tom was great. We had been discussing and I said, “I can’t believe that’s the first time I’m gonna work with you.” He’s like, “No, it’s fine!” And I’m like, “Easy for you to say.” But we got along great from the get go, so it was fine. I was very comfortable with him, we’d all become good buddies and were hanging out before we shot. It was interesting walking into that room thinking, “Oh, this is a ‘Walking Dead’ closed set? Six cameramen, the boom, ADs, second ADs. You’re like, ‘OK, closed set.’” It was a great bonding experience.

It’s probably not something you thought you’d have to do on “The Walking Dead.”

No, it isn’t. It happens every now and then. I used to make the joke when people would ask “Why not Rick and Michonne?” — “Thanks for wanting Michonne to get some.” I’d just be flippant like that, but it is something I wanted Michonne to explore for herself. She’s a vibrant, living woman, why not explore that part of her humanity? She’s been through it all.

They both deserve it after everything they’ve been through.

Yes, and the episode itself answers the question “Why is this day different from all other days?” It’s very well set up for that. She reencounters Deanna, and Deanna had been the one who had really probed beyond what Michonne is comfortable being. Michonne was comfortable being the one who takes care of the group and who stewards the safety of people.

The episode where Deanna is dying and says, “What do you want?” — Michonne realizes in that moment there’s a scary place she’s blocked off. She’s a little nervous about what’s behind that particular wall, and she really doesn’t know because she’s blocked it off. That’s a wall that went up when her baby’s father died. It’s scary. She’s a control freak — so is Rick — and to be this vulnerable is frightening to her. Seeing [walker] Deanna that day was something that really primed this in her, and got her heart a little bit more in front of the wall.

Also, what Carl says to her that same evening — embracing her as being a mother to him and equating his relationship with her to Spencer’s with Deanna. And also Spencer saying, “You have a life back there and I don’t.” To realize all that she has — a life, a family, a home — after all that she came from. I think her heart gets to be a little more in front of all of her defenses.

Do you think Michonne has been waiting for Rick to catch on or was she so walled off she didn’t even think about it?

When the scene starts and [Rick] gets home, she’s waiting for him to get home. He’s out, it’s dark, she wants him home. The idea that he gets home and the one thing she wants to do is go plop on the couch next to him and spend time with him — in my head I was laughing because she’s in love with him and she doesn’t even realize it. That day finally allows her to be emotionally available enough to find out what’s behind that wall. Honestly, I don’t think she realizes it until that moment. I think it’s the same with [Rick], but I’ll let Andy speak to that.

Deanna’s return is the episode’s other great surprise. How did Tovah Feldshuh enjoy playing a walker?

She was a real trouper. I don’t think it’s ever fun playing your own walker necessarily. She was a fantastic walker, just brilliant. She came in and really wanted to figure out how to do it right and gave it 150%. It was very sad, a very sad scene, but she did it so excellently. She’s an example of the pursuit of excellence at all times at all costs. She’s been a real great example to all of us just watching her work. It was very sad but very powerful how she took it on.

And this is the first episode with Carl’s eyepatch. Did Chandler Riggs have any difficulty adjusting?

Oh, he’s cool, he’s fine. He’s psyched about all the different things that come with doing something different like this. He does have all these interesting adjustments that come with it, the way a character holds a gun and all that. But Chandler is amazing — he’ll always step up to a challenge and do great things with it, this is no exception.

“The Walking Dead” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.

What did you think of Rick and Michonne’s choice? Weigh in below.

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  1. Suzzan says:

    I love this couple so much and I hope that neither one got the bat. I don’t think I could emotionally handle the show anymore I’d they weren’t together

  2. Rich moore says:

    What a horrible mistake. Rick deserves to get bit by a walker.

  3. Kelley says:

    klepp0906 and everyone with a brain…are we not watching a Television show every Sunday? They are not real…however, if they were real, do you really think the disease cares about the color of their skin…after all, Maggie is married to Glen. What is wrong with you people, this is the 21st Century…jealous much?

  4. klepp0906 says:

    Disgusting. Unreal. What is hollywoods agenda in this? Every single show for the last few years with very few exceptions are trying to force the idea that inter species relationships are normal, acceptable, and healthy.

    Is no one considering the long term repercussions to our species? Make no mistake, it’s not racism, I have plenty of black friends. All whom stick to their own species as do I. I don’t like Hollywood forcing this nonstop.

    • TrollingTheTrolls says:

      Go kill yourself

    • Human101 says:

      Hahaha Know your history.Race segregation laws first appeared because there were too manu interracial relationships to the taste of some in power.Genetically mixed individuals have better genetic pool (decreased frequency of genetic flaws running in same communities).Plus,I believe soul and view on life are more important than skin color.Humans are not born racist , it Is a view imposed on them by people like you.😊

      • Akiliana says:

        Stick to their own species? I didn’t realize we weren’t all the same species. When was someone going to tell me? and All this time I have been classifying myself as a homosapien. It is the apocalypse, you find love where you can. This time it just happens to be between two different races.

  5. Sara says:

    I couldn’t be happier! This is going to add more drama to Walking Dead. Rick and Michonne! Who knew? I did.

  6. TF says:

    I did not realize until now that in the opening episode it showed Rick putting another hole in his belt, then a picture of Carl & Judith then the watch and the wedding ring in the glass tray. Rick took out the watch but not the RING—-significant I think. I’m sure others got that right away but the panel did not mention it on the talking dead. I know that was done to go along with the storyline.
    I can’t wait to see what the writers do next and how those two react to each other. I’m a hopeless romantic concerning these two
    I LOVE IT, LOVE IT, LOVE IT!

  7. JT says:

    Someone always has to bring racism into the picture. Why not just enjoy the fact that the two found love again. Really ashamed of anybody who brings up racism:-(

  8. Eneshi says:

    The very first comment I see just whips out the race card and waves it around… Dammit.

  9. Paul G says:

    About freaking time! If you didn’t see this relationship developing between Michonne and Rick you are either racist or an ignorant fool. Michonne is perfect for Rick and his perfect for her! They complement and contrast each other as a man and woman should. Michonne is the only woman in this series that has proven to be strong and dedicated enough to be Rick’s equal…Jesse was no where close! The TWD audience is spammed with rampant homosexuality (as if this isn’t weird) on TV, so what the hell is wrong with seeing a black woman and white man love each other?!! My problem with this is how people seem to think a white man and a black woman couldn’t love each other. Get over your racism America.

  10. Lilly Jacobs says:

    It’s about time. I almost stopped watching when Jesse got into the picture, it just never felt right when it came to being with Rick, but now there is finally undeniable love that could have never happened between Jesse and he…just perfect being Michonne was already practically a mother figure to Carl and Judith… definitely seemed it was meant to be, I hope they keep this going.

  11. Bebe says:

    Love it!!!!!!!

  12. Ally says:

    I think it is fitting, makes sense, I guess it is a little bit awkward haha. I think it is something that you just have to now get use to. But after finally accepting and getting used to it, you’re just hoping they will keep this romance going.

  13. Raquel Roach says:

    I think they do not have any chemistry and it was not a natural scene. Rick and the previous girl had chemistry but not Rick and Michone. This has bee a horrible episode. The director did a poor job on the truck full of supply. It was a very poor poor job.

  14. Dominiqua says:

    They have been in love for quite a while. The moment they realized it was beautiful to behold. The Grimes family is fully whole now. I can’t wait to see how their relationship progresses and which characters are going “I told you so!”

  15. Marlene Estes says:

    I think it’s wonderful and they deserve it!

  16. TF says:

    How can people just look at black and white. Most people love Michonne’s character on the show and root for her every week. But then all of a sudden she’s “black” when she and Rick come together. I read the comics and I’ve watched the show from episode one and i’ll tell you I thought it was a beautiful thing. Considering everything that Rick and Michone have come through together it felt natural to me. It was wonderful and I hope the writers turns it into a great relationship. LOVE IT!!!!

  17. Ashlyn Rose says:

    I loved this episode. It was the first time I saw key stone cops humor in TWD. However, I was cringing and screaming NO when Rick and Michonne got romantic. As Fallon commented on TTD, every woman Rick has bedded ends up dead. I was most distraught.

  18. Propecia XL says:

    Michonne would only do black guys in the comic book. Now she with Rick?? Sheeeeit

    • Sara says:

      This isn’t the comic book. Get over it.

    • Centamhain says:

      Really? Because Rick NEVER slept with Jessie. They had one very awkward kiss, and then he killed her husband. She pushed him away, and so it was a minor crush from Ricks side and that it all. Michonne has been his one constant, strong, equal suolort system that loves his children like they were her own. They make oerfect sense.

  19. Gloria Smith says:

    The writers and makers of this show know what all the REAL fans want to see. This is something that is true to the storyline and was Inevitable,For these two particular people to avoid They love one another in all ways… And are going to be a power couple like no one has seen. so HATERS GO ON AND HATE it your job… But there’s way more lovers and you not watching isnt going to hurt any
    rating. And the BEAUTIFUL couple are still going to be together :-)

  20. Bailey Love says:

    Great! We will never have to read any of your comments ever again. Maybe you should watch reruns of Friends. All white cast.

    • klepp0906 says:

      Thank god. Coal burner.

      On last nights news, young woman killed by boyfriend. (Whispers to wife, 20 bucks he’s black) Starbucks was free today.

      Keep playing to the novelty or trying to piss off daddy. Don’t expect sympathy when the primitive animals beat the fuck out of you or worse.

      No offense to the good negros out there. I know you exist and it’s a real shame that 50 years ago you were “all” ostracized and abused when your species was actually by and large well meaning productive members of society.

      Now that the opposite is true and you destroy lives and cities on a regular basis – we shy away from criticism in the fear of offense? We try to push an agenda to mix species? Wth? Lol

    • Ginger Lovely says:

      Shut the hell up. How’s that for a compliment? Who cares how you took it? Now that’s sarcasm and an insult, direct, no need to assume or speculate. I want you to feel this insult. Get lost, prejudice idiot.

  21. Samantha says:

    Wow, I loved this episode so much that I jumped off of my sofa. I was hoping this would happen since Michonne knocked on the door and Rick told Carl…. it’s for you.

  22. Ginger says:

    Its funny to witness the pathetic little racists come out and try and denigrate this relationship. Luckily the vast majority of TWD fans enjoy good storytelling and characters much more than they care about anyone’s skin color.

  23. vomited a little says:

    I would have more respect for Rick if he slept with a Walker.

  24. bye bye walking dead says:

    last time i ever watch this show.

  25. incoming ratings plunge says:

    sickening

  26. Bailey love says:

    Fans of the comic is really taking this hard. I never read the comics so I’m happy. Even if the relationship is short lived I’m glad they got together.

  27. RICHONNE IS JUST AWESOME! A POWER COUPLE FOR THE AGES ! I’m in HEAVEN!

  28. nolongerafan says:

    Was not at home so recorded on DVR. I will delete it and not be watching in the future.

  29. Amara says:

    I was really pleased with this episode. Sure, the world’s gone to hell and the human race has been decimated, but people are still people, right? This episode helped develop the humanity that will survive the zombie apocalypse, a necessary dynamic for The Walking Dead. The evolution of Michonne’s and Rick’s relationship has been natural, and I think it is wonderful that the show is embracing the idea that you can’t fully live if you let your fear drive your every move.

  30. grenadeh says:

    Not pleased with the rando relationship between Rick and Michonne and thedivergence from the comic book, after how much they’ve been doing to course correct. This makes Morgan even more pointless, considering he was the only one to ever have a romance with Michonne and should have been long dead by her hand at this point anyway.

    • Bailey love says:

      Just because Michonne and Morgan won’t have a romance doesn’t mean he’s pointless. Don’t get me wrong I’m not happy with Morgan’s character at the moment. However, it seems the show is going to do something with him and Carol. I don’t think it will be a romance but it will be interesting to watch.

    • Dev says:

      The comic book version of Michonne made it clear she only would get involved with black men. When Tyreese died she stayed single until the next black man came along who happened to be Morgan, and when Morgan died she went after Heath but Heath rejected her since he was with Denise, and the minute Ezikel came around she hooked up with him. I’m glad the show isn’t having her only go after black men, and I’m glad they gave her the comic book Andrea’s personality rather than the personality Michonne has in the comic. In short, the show version of Michonne is just superior, same goes with the show version of Glenn, Hershel, and even Rick. I read the comic for 8 years but then I realized I was wasting my time with it since a superior version of the TWD story is free and on tv..

  31. taffy says:

    A talented, well-spoken black woman with a respectful attitude and no chip on her shoulder. Shocking.

    • Richonne lover says:

      What a nasty, hateful, ignorant, racist, disgusting and miserable thing to say. White people make me hate being white sometimes. “People” like you embarrass the rest of us.

      • klepp0906 says:

        You make me sick mudshark

      • right, because that stereotype is so off base and it is so ugly to pigeonhole people like that.

        Oh, no that cant be it based on the ease and comfort with which you slipped into the most human hateful and demeaning generalization of “white people” as “hateful”, “ignorant”, “disgusting” and “miserable”.

        You are truly enlightened with hypocrisy of the egalitarian elite.

        Everyone’s feelings matter more than well established facts, patterns and history. Except of course if your talking about white men, then there is no one who will object to whatever hate you choose to throw at them.

        In that case, have fun tearing them apart with any and all of the most vicious and hurtful labels and generalizations as you can come up with it.

        The best part is while spewing all this ugly hate, you can rest easy in your “righteous and moral” standing because obviously, they deserve it.

        What an ugly piece of work you are.

      • Ginger says:

        It was obviously sarcasm. smh.

      • tim marshall says:

        you hate being white cause of the diverse things people say? maybe you aren’t white, maybe you’re a rachel dolezal/shaun king wannabe. self-hating goes deep,

    • Ginger Lovely says:

      You should get out more because your description fits the character of MANY black women. Try not to appear so limited in thought and perspective, it’s somewhat annoying.

      • Michele Lea says:

        I think taffy’s “shocked” comment was sarcasm. At least, that’s how I took it since the rest of the comment was very complimentary. @Ginger Lovely… You might be the one with the limited perspective who doesn’t recognize a sarcastic comment. Lighten up.

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