Actress Danai Gurira says Michonne recognizes Rick’s strengths as a leader come from his ability to love others, including a daughter that’s not his own.

One of the most unexpected and touching moments in a recent episode of The Walking Dead came near the very end. In attempting to explain his submission to Michonne, Rick reveals the truth about Judith’s parentage. He knows he’s not her father, just he accepts her and loves her regardless. Just as they now have to accept life under Negan’s rule.

The Beauty of a Great Leader

Rick and Michonne on The Walking DeadImage Credit: AMC

For Michonne, it’s a heartbreaking moment. “He knows she’s in a different mindset. She doesn’t want to live a life of being a slave to these thugs. That’s not a life,” says Danai Gurira, who plays Michonne. “There’s a moment of deadlock between them and he even questions if she’s hidden any other guns. There’s a moment of distrust we’ve never seen.

I think what he does with telling her about Judith is really a way of helping her understand where he’s coming from. Being that vulnerable to her is a way, I believe, to open her up to where he is because right now she simply does not agree and can’t see the perspective he’s holding onto so tightly.

For her, the beauty of who he is manifests in the fact that he’s been taking care of this young girl and loves her as a daughter in every way, even though she’s not his child. That’s who he is. He sacrifices for the love of others and that’s what makes him a great leader.”

Finding the Middle Ground

Shooting an emotionally charged scene like that is always difficult. Gurira and Andrew Lincoln, who plays Rick, had to escape into their own character’s minds. That allowed them to come into the scene in a natural way. “I think largely we came at it from the way the characters do, which is that they’re not connecting until they are connecting,” says Gurira. “They’re both strategists and warriors, but they’re not on the same page and that’s hard.

“I did of course talk a lot with [Executive Producer] Scott Gimple and the writers on set, but I didn’t talk a ton about it with Andy because I think it was that great thing where you do your own prep and it’s a scene where you’re both really holding onto your own character’s perspective. You need those two separate, distinct perspectives to be very sharp and clear so that when they meet each other in the scene, it’s really rich.”