‘The Walking Dead’: Danai Gurira on Michonne’s Surprising Decision (SPOILERS)

The burgeoning relationship between Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Michonne (Danai Gurira) was one of the lone bright spots in a sea of grimness in the home stretch of Season 6 of “The Walking Dead.” But in the aftermath of Negan’s brutal subjugation of the Alexandria community, Rick and Michonne have found themselves holding two opposing views on their predicament, leading to some tension. Gurira called up Variety to discuss Michonne’s surprising decision at the end of the episode.

Talk us through Michonne’s decision-making process in giving up the gun, and seemingly coming around to Rick’s point of view, which is that they cannot fight these people.

It really was the realization that these two people haven’t been on the same page. They haven’t had a conversation since this happened. The shot with both of them in bed at the beginning of the episode, it’s very different from the first time we saw them in bed together. Then, they were disrobed, intertwined. Now they’re back-to-back and clothed. They know each other too well to know they’re not on different sides.

Michonne finding Negan there is very, very frustrating for her. They have been caught with their pants down. Rick has been shut down about it; they haven’t strategized. No one knows if there is a strategy.

Michonne has been garnering a very real reaction to Rick’s inertia. It is really a very frustrating disconnect and lack of communication, which they’ve never had. It causes her to retreat. She goes back to being a loner and being by herself, figuring out how to handle this in a solo way. Being part of a team has its flaws when you’re not on the same page.

Giving him the gun is when she feels that fear he’s been feeling. When she hears him express that fear of more loss, she understands. But it’s a very frustrating moment, because she understands — but it’s not who they are. They’re warriors.

Her attempt to come to his side comes from when he tells her about Judith. She’s that far away from him, so he has to go that far, because he knows what she’s capable of. It does work, because she sees such a beautiful component of him she hadn’t seen before. It’s heartbreaking, and that’s what she loves about him. He’s so sacrificial, and he doesn’t do it from that place of ego. She can’t ignore that. In some ways it makes her love him even more. She would never have dreamt that he wasn’t Judith’s father from the way he treats this little girl.

But she says, “I’m going to try,” because it’s not who she is. To see what the Saviors did as they’ve left, that’s their act of enslavement. They’re breaking us in every way they can think of. Taking their things and then burning it all. Is there even a way to cooperate with people like this, on top of all they’ve done already? Do we live a life of being enslaved? That’s something she can’t quite get her mind around. She can get her heart aligned around him. But her mind? It’s hard.

Where does Michonne go from here? Can she really lay down for the Saviors? It’s interesting that Negan didn’t take away Michonne’s sword.

I think there is something about not taking away people’s knives. Negan wants us to be alive, and knives are harder to cause a ruckus with. It’s strategic on Negan’s part. Michonne’s sword is a big knife, but it is a knife. It can’t cause a magnificent amount of damage.

At the same time, she’s caught between her love for her partner, the love of her life, and who she is. She just knows in her gut and instinct and intellect that there’s always a way to fight — looking at all that we don’t have isn’t the way. Right now she can’t argue with him when he tells her they just don’t have the numbers. There’s a deep emotional and psychological argument, but she doesn’t really have anything to come back at him with, because he’s being so pragmatic.

Having to play someone in that state feels like it could take a toll on an actor.

It really is about how you need to get there. It’s particular to each actor. Myself and Andy didn’t really discuss the scenes in the episode a lot. I discuss them a lot with my boss, but there was less discussion between us because the conflict is in the moment. We’ve been that separate. I just got in the bed, he’s in the bed, there’s that disconnect, and we lived in that a little bit as we were shooting it. It’s them trying to navigate through that through lack of communication. I lived and stewed in that very trapped place; it’s a component of the grief the loss and the need to rectify.

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