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Interview: Danai Gurira ('Mother of George,' 'The Walking Dead') on Telling the Story of Africans in America

Photo of Jai Tiggett By Jai Tiggett | Shadow and Act August 15, 2013 at 10:45AM

Starring in Andrew Dosunmu's acclaimed Sundance drama Mother of George which opens in theaters next month, playing the katana-wielding Michonne in AMC's The Walking Dead, and continuing to build a thriving career as a playwright, Danai Gurira is a busy woman.
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Danai Gurira in 'Mother of George'
Oscilloscope Danai Gurira in 'Mother of George'

S&A: Andrew had been working on Mother of George for years and actually made Restless City in the mean time. Was there an added sense of responsibility for you, considering how much had been invested in this film? 

DG:  Absolutely. I never thought they would choose me. I thought they would go to Nigeria and find a girl who had never acted before, so I was very shocked when he said, "You're my mother of George." We knew we had a great work relationship and that we could trust each other. But I did really want to do it justice for both of them. I knew it was their baby that they had been working on for a long time. But also because for Darci, this character is connected to something very intimate. She has this interesting African extension of herself which was fascinating to take on, but also I wanted to honor her struggles and how she looked at this character as someone who is doing something that she couldn't do. 

S&A: Your character in The Walking Dead is intense and dramatic in an entirely different way. What can we look forward to in the new season? 

DG: It's going to be very exciting, very unpredictable. Reading the script was thrilling. I think there's great action and character stuff happening this season in a way that is going to be really satisfying and thrilling for the audience. 

S&A: Will we get to see any new side of Michonne that we haven't seen before? 

DG: You'll have to wait and see. [laughs] 

Gurira on the set of 'The Convert'
Gurira on the set of 'The Convert'

S&A: You're also an award-winning playwright. Tell me about what you're working on next.  

DG:  Shockingly, I've got two plays that are completed and are now in development. I'm just really thankful. It was a long journey but to actually get these stories to the point where they're going to be told, will be developed in the next year and then will be ready to go on stage, is really exciting because I was scared that I wouldn't be able to complete my playwriting given all the other things that are happening. Last night we did the play reading of my newest piece at the McCarter Theatre out at Princeton. I'm very excited about where the plays are going and the response they've received already. 

S&A: Tell me about them.

DG: It's a series of plays that deal with different moments in Zimbabweans' story. One of them is a play called Familiar which deals with Zimbabweans living in the United States, though it's very different from Mother of George. The Convert, my last play that was produced, was about Zimbabwe in 1895, so the other play deals with more of her "adolescent years," as I call them. It's about Zimbabwe's adolescent years through the prism of a very shrewd female survivalist. 

S&A: We've heard that you were also tapped to write a TV series. What's happening with that?  

DG: [The Independent] took it a little further than what I had said. There's interest in my voice in that realm, but it's a very initial type of thing. It's a long journey to saying, "Write us a TV show." Because I'm interested ultimately in writing for the screen, it is exciting. But it is quite a process and it would be very involved before I could say, "This is happening."  


Oscilloscope will release Mother of George in theaters on September 13. Find screening dates/cities HERE. Find the film's trailer HERE.

This article is related to: Danai Gurira, Mother of George, Andrew Dosunmu


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