To her legions of fans, Danai Gurira (36) is primarily known as “Michonne”, the formidable sabre-swinging she-warrior and prime annihilator of zombies in post-apocalyptic horror TV drama The Walking Dead, the cult show developed by Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption) and the most watched TV series in America. Danai Gurira is however much more than that: the American-born, Zimbabwean-raised actress, who studied psychology and drama in New York University, is also an award-winning playwright and a women’s rights campaigner. An awestruck Chic-Londres caught up with her in London, where she was one of the guest speakers at the recent Global Summit to end sexual violence in conflict organised by Angelina Jolie and William Hague.
You’ve written a play about Black women suffering from HIV and founded a charity to promote art education in Africa: what motivated you to become a campaigner?
I grew up as a Zimbabwean girl, and while I was lucky enough to be raised in a middle class family and to have a protected childhood, between the States and Zimbabwe, I never saw any difference between me and the other African girls. I’ve always felt that they are me, and that I am them, and that it’s my duty to make sure hat their voices are heard.
What do you think of the work so far accomplished by Angelina Jolie?
I deeply admire both Angelina and her partner, Brad Pitt, who’s also been present for the summit. To me, they represent the best that Hollywood can produce: true activists who use their fame and their power to do some good- definitely something to aspire to.
Why do you think it took so long for such a summit to be organised?
It’s an unfortunate fact that women are still often very much considered as second rate citizen, particularly in developing countries. That said, while a summit to end sexual violence in conflict was long overdue, it doesn’t mean that nothing had been done before: there’s been a lot of work accomplished by activists, some of whom I met in Liberia and whose courage is admirable.
Michonne is a warrior who’s a fighter who protects fiercely those she loves how do you identify with her?
We have strong parallels, although it’s only recently that those were brought to my attention. She has different tactics from mine because she is in a war zone, but I love the fact that she uses her power to protect others.
The next step for me is to get the cause we’ve been defending during this summit to the big screen, because films are a very powerful tool to bring awareness to the public- so far, my main media as a writer has been the theatre, but the stage only goes that far when it comes to carry messages, while films are limitless.
What shall we expect from the next season of The Walking Dead?
We’ll get to discover some unseen aspects of people whom we haven’t got to know that well so far- they will shine and reveal themselves much more. The beauty of the show is that it always goes deeper into the characters, which is really exciting: we’re not done yet!