Actress Danai Gurira is the hottest addition to The Walking Dead cast, playing Michonne, one of the most anticipated characters of the hit series. Michonne first made her appearance at the end of the second season finale, when she saved Andrea (Lauren Holden) from a walker, by decapitating it with her katana.
Here are 8 things to know about the actress and the character she plays:
- Danai was born in the US, but grew up in Zimbabwe. “I was born in Grinnell, Iowa, but at the age of 5, we went to Zim where I went to primary school and high school. I consider myself half and half, and I spend half my time there and half of it here (in the US). Oh, and she speaks some Shona too.
- Danai didn’t know she’d been cast as Michonne when the final season played out in March 2012. The role hadn’t been cast yet by the time the last shot of season 2 – in which Michonne makes her first appearance – was filmed. Viewers only saw the back of her character so it didn’t matter anyway that it was a stand-in.
- The New York University graduate had won theatre accolades for her off-Broadway work, and also appeared in movies like Restless City, and TV shows like Law & Order and Treme, before scoring this much-coveted role.
- The show’s creator Robert Kirkman told The Hollywood Reporter, Danai ticked all the right boxes. “There’s a lot to that role, and Danai, more than any other actress, showed us that she could exhibit that strength and show what an intense character she could be and, at the same time, have that emotional core and be able to show a vulnerability to a certain extent that we don’t see much of but is definitely there.”
- At San Diego Comic Con, Danai expressed how ready she had been for the role: “What you see through the writing and vision of the creator, you add to it by bringing your full humanity and by really delving into the character’s background and their motives and fears, all those things can make a multidimensional character come to life. That’s how I’ve been trained from the beginning and how I’ve created characters in the past on the stage or through my playwriting.”
- The close friendship her character shares with Andrea on screen is mirrored in real life between Danai and Lauren Holden, who frequently sing to each other on set. Lauren says: “Andrea and Michonne are a wonderful combination. They genuinely love each other as people, and they’re battling the elements together so it’s really rich story-telling. It’s unexpected, in that it’s not in the comics, but it’s this wonderful, glorious departure. It’s great when women stick together…Danai is a wonderful addition to our cast, and she fits right in.”
- Speaking of fitting right in, Danai joined the cast in the full sense – they all live in the same apartment complex in Peachtree City, Georgia, where the show is filmed.
- Danai admits she was a little nervous to take on a character that people already love: “She already has her own built-in fanbase. Usually you create a character, but like with most comic genres, she’s a full entity on her own. It’s like she’s whispering in my ear: ‘don’t get me wrong, don’t mess this up.’
- The actress is a big philanthropist. She has an organization called Almasi Collaborative Arts, aimed at “incalcating professionalism in the arts in Zim. It’s based on specific experiences I had there. I decided to really just put my foot in it and make a full time commitment.”
The Walking Dead airs on Fox International on Top TV in South Africa, and on AMC in the US, Sundays from October 14th.
[This story originally appeared on msn.co.za]