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November 25, 2012

‘Walking Dead’ star Danai Gurira: Michonne, Rick and PTSD

Posted in: TV

Michonne (Danai Gurira), Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), Oscar (Vincent Ward) and Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) in "The Walking Dead." (Gene Page / AMC)

Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs) and Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) in "The Walking Dead." (Blake Tyers / AMC)

Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs), Oscar (Vincent Ward) and Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) in "The Walking Dead." (Blake Tyers / AMC)

Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus), Oscar (Vincent Ward) and Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs) in "The Walking Dead." (Blake Tyers / AMC)

Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) and Carol (Melissa Suzanne McBride) in "The Walking Dead." (Blake Tyers / AMC)

Maggie Greene (Lauren Cohan) and Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker) in "The Walking Dead." (Gene Page / AMC)

Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Maggie Greene (Lauren Cohan) in "The Walking Dead." (Gene Page / AMC)

Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker) in "The Walking Dead." (Gene Page / AMC)

Maggie Greene (Lauren Cohan) and Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker) in "The Walking Dead." (Gene Page / AMC)

With “The Walking Dead” nearing the halfway mark of its third season — the hit AMC series has just two episodes left before a weeks-long break that will carry through to February — the action on the zombie show is clearly intensifying. (Caution, spoilers ahead.)

Michonne and Andrea have parted ways, Lori and T-Dog have departed for the hereafter and Glenn and Maggie appear to be in grave peril, while the Governor is slowly displaying his true, deeply devious and calculating ways — if not to the residents of Woodbury than at least to the record-breaking numbers of “Walking Dead” viewers.

The experience of working on the show’s Georgia set is just as intense for the actors as the characters they portray, according to Danai Gurira, whose Michonne last week found herself arriving at the prison stronghold where Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and the other survivors have made camp. (Click through the gallery above to see images from episodes six and seven of “The Walking Dead’s” third season.)

The Iowa born, Zimbabwe-raised actress and playwright isn’t trying to suggest that the cast is actually fighting off zombies, of course; rather, Gurira likened the environment on set to the world of theater, where the performers are entirely invested in living through their fictional counterparts to give the scenes, and the show overall, a palpable, dramatic vitality.

“There’s something about this show where the actors have such a beautiful ownership of what goes into the camera frame,” Gurira said during a recent interview. “People want everyone to do excellently and they let you know when you have. There’s such encouragement of fellow excellence. It’s so collaborative. It’s something that the lead of the show, Andy Lincoln, really brings to light. There’s something so pure about him; there’s no ego, it’s all about the work. He sets a beautiful example that way; he’s kind, encouraging, congratulatory, really happy for great stuff to happen. He’s a true actor.”

Gurira’s Michonne and Lincoln’s Rick certainly have some things in common, a fierce determination to stay alive chief among those traits: “I think everyone is living in the aftermath of PTSD and is kind of still in a PTSD realm,” Gurira said. “The world is gone, your family’s gone, you’ve seen things you could not ever fathom. [In Michonne's case] she became very specifically who she became as a result of that — as everyone did — but her response was extraordinary. She re-created herself extraordinarily. She just decided she wasn’t going down, she was actually going to really figure out how to take care of herself in this world, not just get by, not rely on anybody else.”

“The way she’s wired has its pluses because it’s so brilliant for the world,” she continued. “It really makes her formidable. However, there’s some damage that’s done that she hasn’t dealt with.”

She smiled and paused before adding, “It’s not like you can get some therapy, some counseling to work through it.”

– Gina McIntyre

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