"Walking Dead" actress talks new play, movie

ASSOCIATED PRESS Danai Gurira (a/k/a Michonne from "The Walking Dead") is in town to see her play performed.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Danai Gurira (a/k/a Michonne from "The Walking Dead") is in town to see her play performed.
Posted: October 17, 2013

 DANAI GURIRA is in town, but fans might not recognize her without her traditional samurai sword. Or trailed by zombies hungering for Gurira's flesh.

That's because most people know Gurira as Michonne, the badass blade-wielder from AMC's zombie megahit "The Walking Dead." (The show just premiered its fourth season Sunday to bonkers ratings, beating out even Sunday Night Football in the coveted demographics.)

But Gurira isn't in town to slay the undead. Instead, she's here to see the play she wrote, "The Convert," staged by the Wilma Theater. "The Convert" is the story of Jekesai, a girl living in southern Africa in 1895 who escapes a forced marriage and finds Christianity, yet still feels loyalty to the spirituality of her ancestors.

"For me it was about exploring my history. Who would I have been if I was alive at that time?" the Zimbabwean-American actress said. "The Convert" "focuses on that time through the prism of this one girl's experience, being someone who grew up in postcolonial Zimbabwe, the melding of identity, the clash of culture in the African identity."

Similar themes of complex African narratives also carry through to "Mother of George," in which she stars and which will play at the Philadelphia Film Festival on Oct. 21 and 25. The movie is about a recent Nigerian immigrant who is desperate to conceive a child.

"It was a no-brainer, because I'm always attracted to great narratives about African women," she said. "Usually I have to write it, but it's so nice to have it handed to me so I can act it."

Gurira feels the same way about playing the mysterious Michonne on "The Waking Dead."

"I like telling deep, intense stories that take people to the core of their humanity. I want those stories told that are visceral and connected to your bone marrow," she said. "Yet, there's always a touch of humor in stuff I do, because I think that's a part of having a full meal. I feel very at home in 'The Walking Dead.' Creatively, I feel I'm exactly where I want to be."

"The Convert" runs through Nov. 10. Go to wilmatheater.org for more info.

In other theater news . . .

Stephen Lang, who played evil Col. Miles Quaritch in "Avatar," will also be in town to perform his one-man show, "Beyond Glory," at the Montgomery County Playhouse (340 Dekalb Pike, Blue Bell) on Friday. Lang plays eight different veterans from different time periods and different wars. But Lang calls the show apolitical, having first performed it in 2003, at a time when he felt the country was fragmented.

"It's such a phenomenon that we hang together as a union. Even more so today. I wanted to examine the core issues that bind us together decent, civilized human beings," Lang told me.

Lang is no stranger to the area: He attended Swarthmore and found his voice at Media's Hedgerow Theatre.

"It was my first exposure being in a theater with professional actors. And beautiful girls. I was in college, so I was ignoring my studies, but it was an inspirational place for me."

Jill Scott goes classical

Philly's reigning diva Jill Scott will be the special guest at the 157th Academy of Music Anniversary Concert and Ball, on Jan. 25. The theme: Preserving Our Heritage.

Last year's special guest for the evening was actor Hugh Jackman.

Get Spice-y

The adage is that Halloween is an excuse for people to strut around in revealing costumes. At Spice2night's Halloween costume contest, it's expected. Our own Stephanie Farr, who reports on good vibes for the People Paper, will be a guest judge at the Horsham sex shop's (537 Easton Road) costume extravaganza. Stop by at 7:30 p.m. Saturday for free drinks and a parade of ladies wearing their Halloween best.


Email: eichelm@phillynews.com

On Twitter: @PhillyGossipDN

Online: ph.ly/DNGossip

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