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'The Walking Dead' star Danai Gurira says Michonne is no longer a loner

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Danai Gurira
Gene Page/AMC

Michonne may not have exactly seemed like a people person when we first met her on The Walking Dead, but that cold, hard exterior has softened over time. Heck, we’ve even seen her smile a few times and strike up a friendship with Carl. But how comfortable is she now in a big group? And how comfortable will she be in a big group full of new faces (like Abraham, Eugene, Rosita, and Tara)? We asked actress Danai Gurira that and more when we spoke about the upcoming season 5 (which premieres this Sunday). Here’s what you need to know about Michonne going forward.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What can you say about Michonne coming up in season 5 in terms of her evolution? How is she going to be fitting in with this new group that we have here?

DANAI GURIRA: I think she’s still evolving and settling into the idea that I’m now going to be a part of this team. Before she was a part of the team, but she had time to get on her horse and go away and spend time alone. But fully immersed and invested is another level of commitment. It really is about her living in that and then what that evolved into for her in terms of really deciding, I want to live. I want to live and I want to live with people and I want to be committed. How does that really look in a world this vile?

There’s a lot of new people, and obviously we left on that cliffhanger and she doesn’t even know who some of these people are: Abraham, Eugene, Rosita, and Tara as well. Is she going to be a little wary of these people? Or, since they’re all stuck in that train car together, does that form an immediate bond?

She’s never really quick to trust people, but then, at the same time she’s really, really good with figuring out whether people are good or bad very quickly. Her high level of perception and discerning people is really, really amazing. She was actually really clear on the Governor from the get-go. She was clear on Rick from the get-go. I don’t think that’s a huge thing for her. It’s a question of how they gel, but in terms of thinking they’re probably on the right side of things considering how they’ve helped her people and the fact that they don’t come across to her as problematic beings initially — they’re in the same situation, as we saw at the end of the season. It is all about her being able to discern very quickly — good or bad. The question of how they’ll fully mesh is another question.

We know at some point there’s going to be this trip to Washington, D.C. that Abraham is intent on to get Eugene there to cure the zombie plague. How does Michonne feel about that mission?

I think the idea of being with these people involves investment. Being committed to these people involves wanting safety and a degree of stability for them and for the group. How do we find that and navigate that? But she’s also a person who doesn’t go for things easily or quickly. It has to make sense. It has to be something sound. There’s really that question: Will she or won’t she buy the Eugene story? Will she be able to get aligned with that? The idea of a degree of how do we navigate the wretchedness of this realm when we walk through season 4 seeing them looking for sanctuary —  we find it and we get locked in a train car. It really ups the ante of needing to find something a little bit more, to have more of a stable plan than following signs on a railway track. I think she definitely feels that. Her connection to this young boy [Carl]. Seeing how hungry he was and they were being handed that food at Terminus. She’s feeling that, the connection to wanting to see everyone have some sort of stability, especially the people she loves and cares for. The question is: What’s that going to look like? We need to figure out something more sophisticated than following random signs.

We got a lot of clues into Michonne’s past last season. Any looks back this season that we’re going to be seeing?

I think the interesting thing for her is getting to know her more and how those onion layers have been peeling off. It’s a question of what’s the next layer that needs to peel, or that will peel or won’t peel. Maybe it’s something connected to her past that is starting to reflect in the present that might cause her to connect to how she reveals herself or grows or cracks open in the season.

We’re going to get to see most of the group together again. Talk to me about what that’s like after you guys were off in those smaller groups in the back half of last year.

Yeah, it actually was really great because, for me, Michonne has been a loner, and that did involve how I used to shoot. I would shoot, just me, and maybe a couple other characters. It is kind of great to work with such a larger group. It has been a new experience for me, as it is for Michonne, to step into being amongst everybody and working as a team and not having to be this loner who just looks out for herself. It’s interesting, because for her it’s different and for me it’s different. As I said, I’m not used to working with everybody at once, so it’s actually been really, really cool to feel that teamwork at hand, not only in the story, but just working with all these great actors at the same time and getting to know each other more. You know a lot of us live in the same building, we do dinners a lot, we really like each other. It’s really a blessing. We do like to hang out off set and spend 14-hour days together on set.

You guys are shooting out on location a lot more as opposed to when you were in the prison at the studio. What’s that like for you guys, being out and about more — especially if there are fans around and stuff.

Yeah, that is an interesting component. We’ve dealt with it off and on during the last couple seasons I’ve been apart of. Absolutely, it’s been on another level, in terms of the fan interest, fan presence. It’s been wonderful. We connect with them. At the same time, we don’t want them to see what we’re doing because that spoils it for them. It is keeping that balance. How do we make sure we have that connection with our fans while we sort of don’t let them see what we’re shooting so that they can enjoy it on the screen.

I know there are going to be parts of season 5 that have more of an urban environment, back in the city. How is it going to be different than being out in the woods or at the prison?

It’s really interesting. I must say, the woods are cooler. The city, when you’re shooting on tarmac for the day, it’s exponentially hotter and I start to miss the ground, which is full of vegetation. It’s actually a lot less comfortable shooting on hardened tarmac rather than out in the woods. I’m a lot cooler out there. It’s a little less comfortable in some ways. You really do have to take care of yourself to really cool down. Sometimes a little bit of cool moisture has to be poured into the wig, but it’s just what’s necessary when you’re in that type of heat.

This show is arguably the biggest in the world, yet doesn’t get a lot of recognition when awards time rolls around. Is that something you guys talk about or worry about?

You know, you really can’t. We are so fortunate. We have such an amazing fan base, such amazing attention — people pay attention to the show and watch it, and care about what we’re doing. The idea of actually complaining about something like that, it would be silly. We just have so much being a part of the show. A lot of the shows getting awards recognition don’t have a ton of viewers. It evens out and that’s fine. To me, I think there are great things about the show that are wonderful. Astounding people, astounding producers, my castmates are amazing, and the crew and the team is just so fantastic. We’re obviously making a great product because so many people pay attention. What more could you ask for, honestly?

Check out our ‘Walking Dead: One-Minute Refresher ‘below. And for more ‘Walking Dead’ scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

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