When the third season of "The Walking Dead" kicks off Sunday, there will be one new star player among the series' core ensemble of characters. Her name is Michonne, and fans of the Robert Kirkman comic book that spawned AMC's hit show know her as a katana-wielding warrior whose unfailingly tough, capable exterior guards a deeply wounded soul.
Michonne was glimpsed in Season 2's finale -- she was the hooded figure with the two armless, jawless zombies that Laurie Holden's Andrea stumbled into as she was fleeing the siege at Hershel's farm -- but in the upcoming run of episodes, audiences will get to know actress and playwright Danai Gurira in the role.
Speaking on the Georgia set of the show earlier this year, Gurira, whose previous television credits include HBO's "Treme," said she was thrilled to tackle the challenge of giving screen life to the fan-favorite character. But she was reluctant to spill too many secrets about what specific adventures lay ahead for her.
"I think you can definitely see colors of her character pretty early on," Gurira said of Michonne. "You see what she’s desirous of and what’s she loyal to pretty early on. She definitely trusts her own instincts and she’s definitely hyper-independent for the most part."
Gurira, who was born in Iowa but spent most of her childhood and adolescence in Zimbabwe, said the experience of filming the early episodes had been intense -- she'd already been caught in a sudden rainstorm that forced the cast and crew to evacuate from the wooded locale where they'd been filming, and the Southern heat and humidity had proved to be a force in their own right.
"I would just have it no other way -- I didn’t get into this aspect of making a living to take it easy," Gurira said. "I like that it’s full throttle. It just engulfs people, this show. They get so attached. I think it’s because people are giving it everything they’ve got, everyone all around you is giving it everything they’ve got. I thrive in that environment, even though it’s an adjustment in the sense that I’ve never been a regular on a TV show. The intensity and the very long hours is something my body is adjusting to.
"The thing that’s great is that I’m coming in third season and people have survived," Gurira continued. "I know there’s already a path and I’ll get to the other side. People have survived it, so will I."
Hopefully, Michonne will as well.