Mania Interview: David Morrissey and Danai Gurira -

Mania Interview: David Morrissey and Danai Gurira

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Mania Interview: David Morrissey and Danai Gurira

New Cast Members Speak!

By Joel Rickenbach     October 17, 2012

Mania had the chance to sit down with the cast of The Walking Dead this past weekend at New York Comic Con. We chatted with the cast and crew about their characters, their experiences on set, and what we can expect from season 3. First up are the two big new characters for season 3- David Morrissey, who plays the Governor, and Danai Gurira, who plays the nomadic, katana wielding Michonne.
What was it like for you to join the show, and how do the cast welcome you?

David Morrissey: I came to the show as a big fan, and I've known Andrew Lincoln for a long time. When I got to Georgia where we film, and I got to my hotel room I was very, very nervous. I was learning the script but was still very nervous joining the show. But when I got to the set they couldn't have welcomed me with more affection. It was wonderful, it's such a tight team once you get down there,itreally was a joy. All the fear and paranoia was in my own head, it's was really a welcoming atmosphere

Danai Gurira: Yeah, the same thing for me really, the cast really extended a warm welcome. Once I got down there and got settled, and found a place to live, three of us actually ended up living in the same apartment complex. I really got to know Laurie Holden, we spent a lot of time on set together, and everyone was really embracing, which is great because it's our job to create the greatest possible product, and that atmosphere really helps.

David Morrissey:It's true of any job, every job is a leap of faith really in its creative process, but how are you going to get on with it? The one thing we all knew was for 6 to 7 months we were going to have to be tight.  You know,if one of the relationships doesn't work, or if you don't get along with somebody, it can be quite tough, but it hasn't been like that at all. Because its run so well, and I have to say it's thanks in no small part to Andrew Lincoln who sets the tone for everybody. You know he such a professional guy, he loves the show, he's committed to the show, and that goes through everyone. Not just through the cast but through the crew as well. 


Both characters are extreme in the comic book, how does that craziness translate to television?

David Morrissey:That's one of those questions that you will have to just wait and see. We feel so evasive doing these interviews, there's a sense that everybody wants to know what's going on. But they are different than the comic book, I don't know about Danai, but for myself it's looking at what the governor does in the comic books, but creatively, with a 16 part series, you'll hit a ceiling pretty quickly. It has to have complexity, it has to have different levels,I think we both feel that way about the characters. You want to bring new things to them if we are going to be playing them for this length of time. We have to have empathy with them, we have to understand them, even if they were doing things that other people think are terribly wrong or reprehensible. Playing those characters you have to come from a place that has to do with how one builds a character, which as actors is what we do. I think the main thing about it is when you're writing a comic book, the visible aspect of it, of the horror and terrible acts, has to be immediate. Psychologically, on a TV screen, you can do things, which are just as bad, if not worse, particularity when it comes to what one can do with the mind and fear. When one runs acommunity they can play with your complete paranoia. I would say that's right up there with what's in the comic book, but it may be delivered in a different way that's perhaps less frightening or reprehensible.

Danai Gurira: I think we forget that in real life there are wars, maybe not here on this soil, but there are wars, and there are psychotic warlords. There are some crazy acts that happen in war zones, so for me, when I read these things in the comic book, sure it's a comic book, but to me it doesn't seem like things are so crazy, or are not that far from reality. There's some really crazy things happening in Croatia and Sierra Leone, and it allows for us to play with the question- how does one become that person? Some of the dictators I grew up with in my part of the world, in their minds what they're doing makes perfect sense.

David Morrissey: I think for us as actors that's the most important part- how did I become this, how did this man or woman become this person? and that's our work as artists before the show even starts.



Describe your characters in your own words.

Danai Gurira: I would say Michonne is a very able woman. It's easy to describe her in a warrior sense, but she's very self-reliant. She's re-created herself in this time of dire apocalyptic shutdown, and has become a very formidable individual. She acts in ways that are very reactive instead of responsive and strategic. She's very guarded, and she's very careful about who she exposes herself to. She's very instinctual, you know? She has chosen to navigate a zone where you'd better Have a weapon. Yeah, she's a woman of several mysteries.

David Morrissey: The Governor runs a town called Woodbury, which is a very secure place. He's worked hard to keep that security, he's built a fence around the town, and it's a very successful place that he's built. You know, your kids can run out the front door and they're safe, which in this world is unheard of. But he runs the town with a mixture of kid gloves and an iron fist. He knows that security comes with a price, and that's really not a million miles away from the world we live in. You have to remind people who live in secluded places how dangerous it really is out there, and that's what he does, so he's a leader.



You are both playing two of the most popular characters from the comic book. do you feel any pressure portraying those characters?

David Morrissey: I don't feel any more pressure then I put on myself for any job that I do. Any job that I do, I go in with a lot of pressure on my shoulders, a lot of responsibility. I don't feel that this is any different just because of the bulk of this Fanbase. I haven't approached this job and differently than I have any other. We both feel a great amount of responsibility for what we do, but I don't feel any extra pressure from this job.

Danai Gurira: Yeah, exactly, ditto. Any job, I feel, comes with a certain degree of responsibility and specificity for that realm. It is interesting, stepping into a role where the character already exists on the page, but has never existed in the flesh, and then to be the existence in the flesh is what's new.

David Morrissey: I think the real difference for me is that sense of ownership. People feel like they own the characters, and yeah, that's going to be interesting as the series goes on really. I have to own the character, there's a lot of people that have ideas about the character and it's a character that is beloved, but as an actor this is mine, this is how I'm playing it, this is the TV series not the comic, and for me that's what will be interesting in the coming months and weeks.


You both play characters who are very powerful, and that's not something we've seen yet, and our survivors may not be aware that such a thing exists. How do your characters change the things that play out in this season?

David Morrissey: I think the tagline is very interesting- you fight the dead and fear the living. I think it's interesting how the humans have dealt with this catastrophe, how do they look forward? I think the biggest difference between the Governor and Rick's character, is that the governor has built security around himself and therefore he has time to think about the future, he can contemplate, he can plan it. Rick's group are just trying to get through tonight, they're just trying to live another day. Whereas the governor has bought himself time, he can now say we can expand this town, this community. There is a bigger ideology about me and my people going forward, they've started anew, and they have no allusions that the human race may come down to them, and that's a really heady mix of power right there. And what he does with that is what gets him, this feeling he gets all the time, it's this sense of power and being the man who runs this place.

Danai Gurira: I think with Michonne there this aspect of hyper independence that definitely wreaks a certain degree of havoc this season, how she responds and reacts to certain situations and people, there are things that don’t pass her check. Those are her instincts, and regardless if it turns out one way or another, she will act. She is not one to ruminate, or have indecision. What’s interesting is that you saw with the other characters the past two seasons, you saw them adjusting to a post-apocalyptic world. Now that they’ve figured out the rules they are meeting people who have already adapted to the world accordingly, and now what happens when they start to encounter each other? That’s where both of our characters are, they sort have recreated themselves post-apocalypse. 


What is it about your two characters that made them thrive when society collapsed?

David Morrissey: For me it’s a mixture of many things. Luck, first of all, he’s been able to step forward with a measure of ruthlessness and compassion I think, in a strange way. But he knows how to run a town, he knows security is everything. I think In the year that’s past, its about luck that you just survive, your prepared to fight. Some people think the strength is in the individual, that they can survive better than the group. I think the governor believes that if he can keep his group together, and that they do what they’re told, and do what he wants, that’s where he can survive. He’s looking at the bigger picture.

Danai Gurira: She’s just one of those people that are very pragmatic, very strong willed. I think it’s about when things change how quickly you can adjust and adapt to reality. Many people would want things to be the way they were, and try to get back to that, but not Michonne. It’s also about the specificity of her trauma, it’s really about when you decide- do I give up? Or do I choose to thrive and be an individual.

David Morrissey: Also, I think they all have that question- ‘What do I have to live for?’ and I think the Governor has a very specific thing to live for in his head. There is something out there that keeps him going, and that’s what the series will deal with.


Can you at all identify with these characters? Would you make the same choices given the situation?

Danai Gurira: I definitely have some Michonne in me. I’m one who’s not gonna go down without a fight, and if I found myself in a realm like that I think I would do whatever I could to preserve myself.

David Morrissey: I would like to think I wouldn’t do the things the Governor does. But I’m not saying I wouldn’t, when my back is against the wall, who knows? I think no one knows what they would actually do when the sh*t hits the fan. You’d like to think you’d be that heroic guy, but the truth is you don’t know who you are.


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JonnyRotten 10/17/2012 7:41:56 AM

 Good interview questions, its so hard to get them to open up.  Given the opportunity I would love to play the Governor, especially after reading " The Rise of the Governor".  I would rule that town and they would love me for it, and if a guy named Rick came along and didn't do as he was told, I'd cut off his hand.  



Roqueja 10/17/2012 9:07:04 AM

Good interview of  two actors playing two polar opposite characters.  One is introduced as a lone survivor and the other a leader with many followers.

I really liked "The Rise of the Governor" as well, and was wondering if any of the cannon from that book was going to be incorperated into the television character.  I also remember hearing about Kirkman having the intention of releasing three novels set in the Walking Dead U including Rise.

invisioner 10/17/2012 10:00:25 AM

I like 'Rise of the Governor' until the end, I found it a little rushed and a little contrived. the transition was too jarring to believe, to me. Brilliant until up to that point.

joelr 10/17/2012 1:44:17 PM

Thanks for the kind words! Robert Kirkman and Michael Rooker up next!

InnerSanctum 10/17/2012 4:29:31 PM

 Great interview.  I was wondering where they were going with the Governor, but it sounds like David is right on the mark.  It would never work to be so "over the top".  They had to make him more complex.  Looking forward to seeing his interpretation.  And, maybe, if they stray from the comics, his presence will remain much longer.  We shall see.  I'll admit, I only followed the comics for a short time after the prison.  Seemed like the peeked.  I might have been premature, but now that I'm a fan of the show, I kind of want to see where they go and not have knowledge of the other universe.  That...and, I just kind of lost interest in Kirkman's story after the prison.  



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