SDCC 2019: The Walking Dead Discusses Danai Gurira’s Exit, Gender Equality, And The “Real” Reason Andrew Lincoln Left the Show

Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Last year at San Diego Comic Con, The Walking Dead confirmed that Andrew Lincoln’s Rick Grimes would be exiting the show. This year, it was Danai Gurira’s turn. At the show’s panel on Friday, the actress announced Michonne will leave the AMC series after season 10.

At a press conference following the panel, the cast and creative team discussed the news. Norman Reedus wasted no time saying he’s been “begging her to stay” since learning Gurira planned to leave. “She’s such a strong character and such sweet lady, she’s fun to work with,” he added, “She shows up to set for a tiny scene with a notebook full of notes. I’m going to miss her as much as I miss Rick. She’s awesome.”

“I personally don’t think about it,” Melissa McBride said. “It’s out of my mind.”

Reedus explained that losing any actor from the show is “always a big deal. It changes the dynamic in the room.” Eleanor Matsuura added that even when an actor leaves “you still feel the energy of that person” on set and in the scenes. 

Reedus revealed Gurira is the one who took over as hype person for Lincoln, getting the cast energized each day. The cast took turns praising the actress with Nadia Hilker saying she’ll miss her “laughter, so much laughter.”

“She’ll be missed,” Jeffrey Dean Morgan added somewhat solemnly.

Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Any details on Michonne’s fate are being kept very secret, of course. Gurira couldn’t even say whether she’d filmed her last episode. “I can’t answer that,” she laughed. “But I will say this, the journey that [showrunner] Angela [Kang] and her team constructed for Michonne, I’m very, very grateful for. You want to leave having put everything out there and they were so generous to me.”

But whatever Michonne’s fate in season 10, we may not have seen the last of her. Scott Gimple, Chief Content Officer, said, “We’re not completely done with anyone who comes and goes on the show.” According to Gimple, Michonne “has some amazing things ahead of her and we’re not completely done with her, I’ll say that.”

The actress, however, was also tight-lipped on whether she’d play Michonne again, such as in one of the upcoming The Walking Dead movies. Actor Ryan Hurst took the opportunity to toss his hat in the ring. “I’m open to playing Michonne,” he quipped.

It was clear Gurira would miss the show and the collaborative spirit between the actors and creative team who she says have always been open to hearing her thoughts on Michonne. 

“There are environments perhaps where that is not encouraged, but that’s not our world, not who we are as a family. I’ve never had a creative conversation that hasn’t been beneficial,” she said. “Maybe women out there, we don’t feel we can find our own ownership and own stride in our characters and bring our thoughts and grapple with them and think about it with those who are our bosses. That’s an idea I encourage folks to embrace. That’s who we are as a show, it’s very special.”

Executive producer Gale Anne Hurd highlighted Gurira/Michonne as one example of how The Walking Dead is showcasing women and working towards gender parity in front of and behind the camera. According to her, seasons nine and 10 were certified as “gender equal” by ReFrame, a non-profit founded by Sundance Institute and Women In Film Los Angeles, which adopts a peer-to-peer approach to forge gender parity at every level in film, TV, and media. 

Hurd might be referring to the ReFrame Stamp, which is “awarded to television programs that hire female-identifying people in four out of eight key areas of their production, including: writer, director, producer, lead, co-lead, speaking parts, department heads and crew. Additional points are awarded to content that has women of color in key positions,” according to their website. 

In addition, Hurd said that when actors depart the show, they stay in touch with everyone. She specifically mentioned Jon Bernthal, who left in season 2 but is still very connected to the cast and creative team. “Danai will be in our lives forever,” she finished. 

Credit: AMC

Even Lincoln wasn’t completely absent from Comic-Con this year. Reedus joked that he spoke with the actor the day before and said, “It’s weird you’re not here at Comic-Con because I don’t know where to send my room service charges.” 

According to Reedus, who put “thousands” of charges on Lincoln’s bill every year, the actor responded by saying, “’I want you to know, that’s the sole reason I left the show.”

Little did either of them know that Lincoln’s presence would still be felt in the hotel. As Morgan revealed, Lincoln’s face was all over their hotel rooms. 

“You open up the toilet seat, there’s a picture of Andy. You pull down your bed covers to go to sleep, there’s a picture of Andy,” he said. “All over out room! We both thought Andy had something to do with it. It was the hotel staff!” 

He even tweeted the proof:

The other big news for The Walking Dead at Comic-Con was the season 10 trailer. While Gurira couldn’t go in to any reasons why Michonne is shown holding Negan’s beloved bat, Lucille, at the end of the trailer, she did tease some “great storytelling” leads up to that shot.

In talking about Negan and how he’s changed over the seasons, Morgan believes we can expect more growth in season 10. Negan’s connection with Judith has helped to humanize and soften him but “Negan will always be Negan,” Morgan stated.

“I think Negan has changed a little bit. People want to say redemption arc, I don’t think it’s a redemption arc. He’s always been who he is. We’ll see… I think he’s going to be battling a bunch of things within himself this season.”

The Walking Dead returns October 6th on AMC.

Stephanie Coats