TWD: The Ones Who Live Star Unpacks Finale’s Near-Misses, Killing Off [Spoiler] and That Emotional Ending

In Sunday’s finale of The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live, “Richonne” took the “im-” out of “mission: impossible.”

While Michonne destroyed Jadis’ Alexandria dossier, Rick received the much-ballyhooed Echelon Briefing from Beale. The gist of it? In 18 hours, the CRM intended to steal away a few bright kids from Portland, then annihilate the city as it established itself as the most powerful force on the planet.

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Needless to say, our heroes couldn’t let that happen. So after Rick dispatched Beale, Michonne pulled a Nat to rig the CRM’s bombs to blow them up, not Portland. Thorne tried to stop them and paid with her life. Only in the end did she acknowledge that the marrieds had “saved hope.”

Then, in the final moments of “The Last,” “Richonne” were choppered away to reunite with Judith and, in Rick’s case, meet R.J. “You’re the brave man?” asked the boy. Yup, Rick replied. “But maybe you could call me Dad.” (Sniffle.) Here, to discuss with TVLine that nail-biter of a finale and its emotional denouement is co-creator, executive producer and leading lady Danai Gurira. (Also, read our post mortem with TWD overlord Scott M. Gimple.)

TVLINE | That was quite the ending! Was it always the plan for the series to conclude with Michonne and Rick getting to be with their kids?
Yeah, any other way would just be too dark. [Laughs] Not what we were aspiring for in terms of an epic love story.

TVLINE | So there were no conversations along the way about Michonne or Rick perhaps dying a hero’s death?
If there was one, which I don’t recall, it was very brief. We really knew we had to show how they were so empowered together. For them to have gone through all that trauma and tragedy just for one of them to die… That’s too dark, even for our show!

the walking dead season 9 spoilers angela kang interview
the walking dead season 9 spoilers angela kang interview

TVLINE | Did you hold out some hope that we would get to see Michonne and Rick reunited with the whole gang in Alexandria?
We discussed that, and how to reconnect everyone. But it was a lot to try and fit in and a lot to try and arrange into being. And it would have required another two episodes for that to have been given the time [it would have deserved] on screen.

TVLINE | I’m not sure I can even count how many times Michonne and Rick cheated death in this episode. Did anyone say, “Is this one explosion too many for them to survive?”
It’s interesting, because in the end, you’re dealing with a lot of things going on at once — big things. You shoot two episodes at the same time, sometimes going back and forth, [so] when you get to that [do-or-die] moment, they’ve figured it out and it all comes together. They do cheat death, but that happens sometimes! [Laughs] Sometimes people survive things you don’t expect them to survive.

TVLINE | Was it hard for you and co-EPs Andrew Lincoln and Scott M. Gimple to kill off characters like Jadis, Beale and Thorne, knowing you might need them later?
Definitely. And Jadis was such an important part of our narrative in recent years of the show — and so unique in how she was able to branch out to other spinoffs. But it’s kinda that thing where we’d already given her a redemption story and she went the other way again, so her journey had to come to an end at some point. She can’t be trusted to leave the Grimeses alone!

TVLINE | What was it like for you to reunite with Cailey Fleming (Judith) and Antony Azor (R.J.) after so long?
That was incredible. And I was genuinely happy for my character, because all of her fears had been around her children’s safety and “Am I going too far in a direction where I might never find Rick? Meanwhile, are my kids safe?” So to have made the choices she made and have it pay off, for her to be able to bring this moment to pass and bring this man home to his children…  I was really, really happy for Michonne.

TVLINE | R.J. had grown so much, I had to watch the credits to make sure it was even the same actor.
He did! That’s what kids do, and you can’t stop them. But we were very happy to get him. It was wonderful how he and Andy connected. I’d never seen him so engaged in that fun way as he was by Andy. He was fascinated by him!

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TVLINE | If this does turn out to be the last time you play Michonne (here’s all we know about the story possibly continuing), will you be satisfied? Have you done everything with the character that you hoped to?
Yeah, I’ve had an amazing, incredible opportunity to play this character and really explore her from so many angles. But people’s stories can continue in various ways. I wouldn’t say she’s been explored in every single way, but I definitely feel as if I’ve had a full meal. I’m very excited and very thankful that I got to play her.

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