Dalton Ross
October 20, 2017 AT 10:00 AM EDT

Can love truly conquer all? Perhaps that is a question that will be answered in season 8 of The Walking Dead. And if Danai Gurira is to be believed, the love between Rick and Michonne has only made them stronger — and given them the strength to take on Negan.

Gurira talked in depth about the relationship when we spoke at EW’s recent cover shoot. “Her and Rick go through some really interesting realizations in season 7,” she says, looking back at last season. “About loss and what they must do and who they must do it for. And I think she actually, in her mind, she was all good with the idea that they would fight and fight and fight and not go down, and that’s what they’re meant to do. But when she thinks she’s lost him in a very quick second in episode 12, she just crumbles. I think that was really shocking and horrifying to her, and then the realization that that could happen and imagining that happening in that way and in that time where they’re like, BAM!, we’re just doing this little thing and we’re going to go back and it’s like BAM!, she could have lost him. It wasn’t even in a battle.”

Gurira says that scared Michonne deeply at first, before a new, more powerful realization took hold. “So that really freaked her out, but the realization that he gave her — he empowered her, and that’s what’s really powerful is that they empower each other. But the idea of, we’re doing this for something bigger than ourselves is this next place that she’s gotten to. So yes she’s deeply connected, as that moment exposed, even to herself. She’s evolved into being so much more alive. Her losses before, she deadened and became very one-woman army. But now this sort of loss, she can’t even compute absorbing it. And so it really was about him regalvanizing her to understand, this is not about us. It’s about the future we’re trying to build. And we have to keep our eyes on that.”

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Gurira then harkens back to a theme she has discussed with us before — how the fight against the Saviors mirrors the real-life battle against oppression we’ve seen in society for decades. “That to me, once again, really replicates and resonates towards the civil rights movement and what was the fight for independence in many countries across the continent of Africa, the fight for the end of apartheid. It really connects to that for me, I guess it’s because those things really resonate for me.

“But it really connects to that storywise for me ’cause it’s that idea that both Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King said — that we might go down doing this, but the point is, we will reach the place we need to go. And that is something that I think really was resonating for her as she was going through that sense of personal loss. It’s like, no, it’s about something so much bigger than your personal loss. And that, to me, was really powerful. That’s where she’s getting to now, the idea that this is bigger than personal loss. This is about creating really a new civilization and fighting for our humanity — fighting for the humanity of generations to come. And I think that’s where she ends up by the end of the season. And yes, of course, fighting tooth and nail for those you love at the same time.”

Gurira then links back to the show and how the relationship between Michonne and her new family gives her a connection that puts her emotions on overdrive. “Seeing Rick and Carl walk in there — she just saw them with guns to their heads, and the next thing you know she was fighting for her life. She’s a control freak. She wants to go and save them. And how many times has she saved Rick? But she couldn’t do anything that time. She had to deal with this. It was restricted to this one fight that she was in. She couldn’t go help with the bigger one. And that, to her, was heartbreakingly painful. But then seeing them walk in, that was amazing for her. The pain went away.”

Let’s hope the pain stays away in season 8. To see Gurira talk about Richonne, watch the video at the top of the post. And for more Walking Dead intel, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

The Walking Dead returns on Oct. 22 on AMC.

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