We’ve heard about the mysterious new threat and the herds of zombies awaiting both us and the survivors when The Walking Dead returns Oct. 13 on AMC, but one of the things that has fans most jacked for season 4 is the sight of Michonne looking even more badass while riding her new horse named Flame. “One of the most compelling images is Michonne finding a new and possibly a lot more reliable type of transportation,” says executive producer Gale Anne Hurd. “With gas at a premium, with the fact that vehicles break down, I think we would return to the days of horseback riding and you can graze them as you go in a place like Georgia. You don’t have to carry food for them. They feed themselves, so to speak. It goes along with the new approach this season of sustainability. With a horse, you can go through the woods. You can get around obstacles. You can’t do that in a vehicle. If a tree falls and blocks the road, you can’t go through the forest. You’re not going to make it through. It’s actually much more of a useful choice. Not only that, but Michonne looks so badass on it.”
New showrunner Scott M. Gimple concurs and adds, “I’ll tell you this—Danai can ride that horse. She does an amazing job. Initially I was a little afraid. I think she was a little confident about it, but I was pretty amazed.” Well, it turns out the process of Danai Gurira learning how to ride that horse is a story in itself. And the actress told me that story in her trailer while waiting out a rain delay on set of The Walking Dead. Here’s what she said:
“I’m going to tell you this and I’m going to regret saying this, but I’m proud of myself, O.K? Because I learned how to ride a damn horse and I didn’t know how to ride a horse, and I was like, ‘I’ve got to know how to ride a horse for the show, and there’s no ifs, ands, buts, or maybes about it. So, I’ve got to figure this mess out.’ And when I got on that thing, I thought I was going to be able to handle it. I said, ‘I’m going to be able to handle this thing!’ I thought it would be fine, and then I got on it and I was like, this is really not easy. This is not easy. This is a huge beast and it has very sharp instincts. It really expects you to know what you’re doing or it’s not going to listen to you. And, it’s bigger than you and stronger than you. And, you’re really high off the ground.
“So I had a lot of adjusting to do. I learned how to ride Western in L.A. and then I get here and they’re like, ‘Oh, but they’re English here.’ And I’m like, ‘Really?’ I was just getting O.K. with cantering, but not really. Then it was just crunch time, and I was like, I’ve just got to do this. It’s man over beast. I realize I’ve been given dominion over the animals and I’m going to take my dominion. I took advice from so many different people. I took it all. I put it all in the pot and somehow the day before we were shooting I was galloping. And we got it there, and then I loved it. I really, really love it. I’ve always loved horses, and in the back of my mind I thought I knew how to ride, but I didn’t. Then I really learned I didn’t. And then now I really can. I love it. I love it now. And I totally get why Michonne would love it. It’s such a freeing experience, it’s you and this one creature and you don’t have to talk. And it does what you say, but it’s also this old being and it gets you where you need to go. It has this perfect function. It’s just a fantastic animal. So, I so get why she would jump on it and feel free. It’s like going into her man cave.“