What can you tell me about the new actress on “The Walking Dead” who plays Michonne?
—John Mutombo, Washington, D.C.
That would be Danai Gurira, 34, who was born in Grinnell, Iowa, to Zimbabwean parents. The Guriras moved to the U.S. in the ‘60s, when her father was teaching chemistry at Grinnell College, and then returned to Africa when Danai was 5.
‘My parents were part of that generation that came here, like Obama’s father, for college,’ Gurira recalls. ‘So I grew up, even in Zimbabwe, with a picture of Martin Luther King that he’d signed for my mother.’
Gurira attended college in the U.S., first studying social psychology at Macalaster College in St. Paul, Minn., and then graduating with an MFA in acting from Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. She has taught playwriting and acting in Liberia, Zimbabwe and South Africa.
A playwright as well as an actor, she won an Obie Award and an Outer Critics Circle Award for writing, and the Helen Hayes Award for best lead actress for the off-Broadway play “In the Continuum” in 2007. Her newest play, a historical Zimbabwean piece entitled “The Convert,” appeared at the McCarter, Goodman and Center Theater Group Theaters earlier this year.
With her focus on theater, Gurira hasn’t amassed a great many movie and TV credits, but what she has includes the film roles “3 Backyards,” “My Soul To Take,” ‘Restless City” and “Ma’ George,” while on TV, she has appeared in “Law & Order,” “Life on Mars,” “Lie to Me,” “American Experience” and a recurring role on HBO’s “Treme.”
Of playing Michonne, she says, “It is this thrilling ride, because you don’t know what the next episode is bringing, so you are constantly adjusting and adapting. It is like life. There is a thrill to it when the writing is this thrilling.”
When not shooting “The Walking Dead,” which films in Atlanta, Ga., Gurira lives in New York City.