The very first image released from season 10 of The Walking Dead showed a badass looking Michonne slicing and dicing zombies while fire raged in the background. Unfortunately, it may also prove to be one of the final images we ever get of the character on the show.
Danai Gurira announced at The Walking Dead’s Comic-Con panel in San Diego on Friday that season 10 (which premieres Oct. 6 on AMC) will indeed be her last on the series, confirming news that EW and others reported back in February that she would only appear as Michonne in a handful of episodes spread out throughout the season.
“I can confirm this is the last season I’ll be on this amazing TV show as Michonne,” said Gurira on the panel. “I would just like to say this has been one of the purest joys in my life. I am very very thankful for the experience I’ve had in ways that I cant even express right now. My heart does not leave… it doesn’t ever end, the connection between us never ends. It was a very difficult decision. It was about my calling and other things I feel called to… as a creator of work. All I’m filled with is a lot of pain about leaving and a lot of gratitude and to all of you. I love you guys. TWD family is forever.” She then received a standing ovation from the Hall H crowd.
The possibility remains that Gurira could — like former costar Andrew Lincoln — move over to star in Walking Dead movies for AMC, but no mention was made of that at the panel, other than a message at the end of the panel that read “Rick Grimes returns. Only in theaters,” as a shot of a helicopter flew towards a city.
EW spoke to showrunner Angela Kang before the panel about the importance of giving the fan-favorite Gurira a proper send-off. “Obviously, Danai has been a huge part of this show since she came in in season 3 as the shadow figure part of saving Andrea at the end of season 2,” Kang says. “Michonne is a fan favorite character from both the comics and the show, and we just love this person and this character, and we want to do right by her, which is a huge challenge.”
The trick, according to Kang, is giving the actress and character an exit strategy that feels both unique and heartfelt. “It was a huge challenge working on Rick’s exit, but what really weighed on us was, ‘Okay, here’s another character that we’ve got to write out, but the exit can’t feel the same as Rick’s thing.’ So there were certain parameters that we really had to work within.”
Of course, it helps to have an actress of Gurira’s caliber to work with. “Danai is a powerhouse of an actress,” Kang says. “Her performances speak for themselves really in the past years. She did such really deep character work in season 9, and we wanted to continue to show her evolution since the big change she went through partway through season 9. And then struggling with certain aspects of leadership, and figuring out what’s the right way to handle these things, and react to trauma?”
In the end, Kang hopes they did both the character and actress justice with what they came up with for the end of Michonne’s story on the show. “I’ll say, I am really excited about the story that we’re telling with her,” says the showrunner. “I’ve been watching these scenes come in that she’s doing, and this is someone who is just breaking your heart in scenes as well as kicking ass, because we’ve always got to have that with her.”
And you can expect a few surprises along the way. “We’re doing some pretty unique stuff,” Kang teases. “Again, it’s nothing I can really get into, but we tried some stuff that we’ve never done on the show with her, and I’m very excited about it. Hopefully we land it, and hopefully, we’ll give her a good send-off from The Walking Dead, where she’s been such a major part for all these years.”
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