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"Walking Dead" Producer On Why He Cast Danai Gurira As Michonne + Says Rutina Wesley Wasn't In Contention

by Tambay A. Obenson
March 19, 2012 10:17 PM
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By now I think we all know that Danai Gurira  has been cast as Michonne in AMC's hit zombie drama series The Walking Dead, and we should see a lot of her in season 3 (we hope), after her brief hooded intro towards the end of last night's season 2 finale of the show!

The news of her casting came literally minutes after last night's episode, when series' executive producer (and author of the graphic novels), Robert Kirkman, announced what a lot of you folks had been anxious for.

THR caught up with Kirkman to talk about the casting of Danai, and he said a few things that I thought were worth sharing here.

First, you may or may not be surprised to know that Michonne's intro scene during last night's episode had already been shot and the person you saw in that sequence wasn't Danai in costume, because she'd only very recently been cast.

Second, when asked why he cast Danai in the part, compared to the other actresses who were being considered, Kirkman said that Danai "really portrayed the power and strength that we need Michonne to exhibit. Michonne is a very complex character who's dealing with a lot of things and has a very intricate personality. There's a lot to that role, and Danai, more than any other actress, showed us that she could exhibit that strength and show what an intense character she could be and, at the same time, have that emotional core and be able to show a vulnerability to a certain extent that we don't see much of but is definitely there. She really was the whole package, and I think she's going to do a really good job."

Third, Kirkman says that Danai will be going through extensive sword training before cameras start rolling in early May for season 3.

Fourth, regarding rumors last year that True Blood's Rutina Wesley was in the running for the part, Kirkman said that he didn't know the source of the rumor, because Rutina wasn't even really available, and she was never in contention for the part.

Fifth, expect a 6-page origin story for Michonne, which reveals the character's backstory, like where she was at the onset of the outbreak; but don't expect those pages to make it into the show. Kirkman says that he likes the mystery that'll surround her if her backstory is kept off the show; although audiences can readily read up on her if they're that curious.

And sixth, Danai's response to learn that she'd landed the part was thrill and excitment as you'd imagine, and she's anxious to get through her sword training, and head down to Georgia to start filming.

Kirkman expressed his excitment for the series finale's numbers, pulling in some 9 million viewers. "They're pretty insane!" he said.

I watched it this morning, and, as I said on Facebook and Twitter, the show was bananas, in a good way! One of the most exciting episodes this season, and the sinister introduction of Michonne was just great! Top it all off with the fact that Ernest Dickerson directed it and, well, total bliss :) Ok not quite, but you know what I mean.

Can't wait for season 3.

Before then however, you'll likely next catch Danai in director Andrew Dosunmu's latest feature project, Ma'George, which is currently in post-production. I'm assuming it'll debut this year - possibly even at Cannes, or, after that, a festival later in the year - maybe the LA Film Festival over the summer, or Toronto in the fall. 

Co-starring alongside Danai are Issach De Bankole (a man we've written about several times on this site), Yaya Dacosta (I doubt she needs an intro), Grammy Award-winning Angelique Kidjo (she likely doesn't need an intro either), veteran Nigerian actress Bukky Ajayi, and British/Nigerian actor Tony Okungbowa who also starred in Dosunmu's first feature Restless City

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  • T Nails | October 4, 2012 1:40 AMReply

    Finally a sista actress that doesn't have blond hair, no record deal, no weave, natural hair, shamelessly chocolate skin and is a real actress.

  • Donella | March 22, 2012 1:34 PMReply

    Michonne entered the Walking Dead graphic novel with issue #19. At you can download issue #19 for free until Monday, March 26th. If you want to see Michonne's full storyline, you may have to purchase the bound book volumes from a chain store. However, most public libraries carry the Walking Dead issues due to increased reader demand. That way, you can see the original source material for the show.

  • Diane | March 21, 2012 5:55 PMReply

    Excellent casting. I look forward to season 3.

  • Donella | March 20, 2012 11:56 AMReply

    I hope Kirkman allows Ernest Dickerson to adjust the serious missteps he made with Michonne's storyline in the comic.

  • Daniel J | March 20, 2012 9:58 AMReply

    Excellent casting choice! What an excellent finale, so good it deserves more than one review!

  • BONDGIRL | March 20, 2012 8:45 AMReply

    Fantastic! I guess I'll get started on Season 1...

  • Micah | March 20, 2012 12:31 PM

    @Bondgirl This is the main reason I'm hanging in next season. Before this episode they were losing me.

  • Gigi Young | March 20, 2012 2:50 AMReply

    Hopefully she won't suffer the fate of so many black women in sf/f fandoms (i.e. irrational hatred).

  • Logic | March 22, 2012 5:26 AM

    We may have finally found the exception to the rule. Fandom has been eagerly anticipating her arrival since the first season, mostly because they hate all the other women and half the men on the show. She's gonna be the biggest badass this show has, next to Darryl.

  • Mano | March 20, 2012 2:17 AMReply

    Another African playing an Afro American role...yipeeee

  • T Nails | October 1, 2012 11:36 AM

    Better to be judged on the merit of your skills then the color...I mean ethnic background. I've no problem with Americans playing Africans if they're good at acting (not singing). Danai, is an amazing actor period. And do your homework. She was raised much of her life in the US. And even if she was raised entirely outside the US, it's nice to know she got picked for the role because of your acting talents not her singing, rapping, Q factor or ability to hustle. It also begs the question, is there a problem with the way many Black American or even White American actors are being trained? They don't cast Russel Crowe, Hugh Jackman, or Hugh Laurie because they think the audience just loves Aussies and Brits. Nor are Lupita, Chiwitel Ejifor, Idris Elba are cast because the public demand their Africans. Is it something in the water or their training? Time to stop pissing and moaning and ask is their something about the way Black American actors are trained (or not at all) as well as perform.

  • Afrostyling | March 20, 2012 8:59 AM

    She was born in Iowa though?

  • carl | March 20, 2012 2:25 AM

    That's right house negro because we are all African peoples. Stop kissing Willie Lynch's ass and grow a brain.

  • Terry | March 19, 2012 11:39 PMReply

    This is so cool. One of favorite shows.

  • Paul | March 20, 2012 8:31 AM

    @Mano-- Gotdamn, you're ignorant.

  • Mano | March 20, 2012 5:53 AM

    First of all , Wille Lynch never existed

    Second of all , Africans dont take kindly to Americans playing the roles of African figures/characters , so why should Americans take kindly to Africans playing Americans?

  • Leslie | March 19, 2012 11:30 PMReply

    I can see Rutina playing this role!

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