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The Walking Dead: Danai Gurira previews the 'riveting' return

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Gene Page/AMC

Michonne knew what was up. She was fully aware that they could not just sit back and allow Negan and his goons to rule over Alexandria with an iron fist and a barbed wire covered baseball bat. But she had to wait for Rick to come to the same realization. Now that he’s there, what does that mean for the group when The Walking Dead returns to AMC for the second half of season 7 on Feb. 12? We chatted with Danai Gurira to get some teases on what to expect as the battle is finally joined.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was it like getting the gang back together for filming the second half of the season because you guys were split up a lot in the first half?
DANAI GURIRA: It was very emotional, even the scene we shot when we all reunited at Hilltop. It was very emotional to reconnect and have that bond and be reunited and stepping into a new time — like, we have not been broken, and we will carry on, and we are who we are, and we’ll carry on in honor of those we have lost and in honor of really our true nature, which is to rise up and to not step back.

So it was really cool to be able to start shooting again with that sort of energy and that sort of reconnection with everybody around. It was a really awesome experience to go back to that because it had been a lot of trauma. We’ve been split apart by trauma in the story, and it was traumatic to experience as people in the story, you know, as the performers. So, it was great to reconnect that way.

 I’ve heard that from you all, that the first half of the season was really tough not just on the characters, but on the actors too.
Honestly, I couldn’t eat. But to me in the terms of story, I found that very rich because of course they have to deal with the trauma. You’re watching a severe post-traumatic time period, and it’s going to be a time of struggle and of brokenness and that’s what happens. But the beauty is that there is that arc in the second half where you’re seeing different forms of resistance emerging. Everyone’s handling it differently. They’re all handling their traumas very specifically, and then you’re not sure, and I think that’s great in the storytelling that you’re not sure how it could possibly all come together for them to actually rise up, and it does. So, to me, I thought that was a very rich thing to see: What are the repercussions of trauma on very specific individuals? How do you dismantle a community and then see it come back together?

Michonne was really in this precarious position of wanting to fight back, but also trying to respect Rick’s wishes to protect his community.
Yes, it was really interesting to explore that with her, and there were times of intense frustration for her, like trying to understand him and be there with him and for him and love and respect him as she does, but at the same time seeing how these people were truly trying to destroy their minds and their spirits and break them with how they burnt the mattresses and things like that and knowing that there’s no way we can actually do what I just told Rick I would try to do. There’s no way. These are not the people you can do that with. So, it was, but at the same time, I just told him I’m going to try to do this. So, it was a very interesting and fine line she had to walk.

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Now that Rick’s back to being Rick, what does that mean going forward for the group?
I think it’s great because it means that we can return to ourselves. We are who we have lost through trying to figure how to deal with this very, very unquestionably daunting force that’s working against us, but our spirit is reignited through that community and that union. So it really is seeing that come to pass in the second half and seeing them re-congeal almost as who they are, returning to who they are, and Rick returning to who he is allows everybody to do the same.

What does that mean in terms of what we should expect tonally in the second half?
It’s really, really riveting, and it goes through various rich chapters of being responsive to a very daunting force, that new force that is a part of our new normal. It’s the idea of how they start choosing to respond to this threat that makes for some really fantastic drama. So I think there’s just a really riveting second half to the season in terms of we’re rising up, but what does that look like? And how the heck are we going to do that? It’s great to be a team again, but we’re dealing with the biggest threat we’ve ever dealt with, and so our tactics have to be different.

What about specifically for Michonne?
Really, all that she does now is about who she loves and it’s about this community. So, even that rage and that desire to get back at Negan was all rooted in the love for these people, and the horrific losses that they just experienced, and how it’s just not in her nature to just take that and say, “Okay, I’ll now submit to you because you’ve got us really good.” No. No. That’s not who she is.

For more Walking Dead scoop, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.