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#Richonne: Danai Gurira is Now the Romantic Lead on One of Television’s Most-Watched Dramas

Avatar • Feb 22, 2016

The Walking Dead has become a phenomenon. Starting out as a modestly-watched drama on AMC in 2010, the post-apocalyptic zombie survival thriller has become a ratings juggernaut, bringing in 14 million viewers for its season 6 premiere and generating a diehard community of fans.

The show is anchored by a solid ensemble cast, and queen of that cast is Danai Gurira who plays Michonne, a katana-wielding OG who has yet to encounter a horde of zombies she can’t slice her way through.

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As the cast’s clear ‘alpha female’, many fans have felt it was inevitable that she hook up with the show’s lead character Rick Grimes, played by Andrew Lincoln. And in last night’s episode it happened.

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This pairing is significant for a few reasons.

1. It isn’t IR fetishization.
Shows like Scandal have been accused of playing into the fetishization of interracial relationships by portraying them as sexually charged and dysfunctional. But the Rick/Michonne (or #Richonne) romance isn’t designed to be dramatic or sordid, rather it is a natural evolution of the characters’ story lines carefully crafted over 3 seasons. Gurira spoke about this in an interview with Variety;

I think [showrunner Scott] Gimple was playing a very long game with it, which is very impressive. He didn’t want us to get ahead of it which is why we were never informed — we chatted but he never explicitly told me. That was really smart because it really was about the characters staying in the moment of the journey of how intimate they became as friends over these seasons. In terms of everything: their mutual connection to [Rick’s son] Carl, the way she trusts him and he trusts her, the way they can talk to each other with a glance, they work really closely together — it was something that was definitely building over the course of the seasons.

We felt these characters had a very interesting connection, but it was in the realm of friendship until it wasn’t…

What I thought was great about it was it’s really submission to the organic progression of two characters. That’s what I like. I like storytelling that’s truthful. The idea of saying we shouldn’t do it because with certain types of characters you don’t want to see that side of them, it sounds like an imposed concept rather than following a story’s organic progression.

To me that sounds like copping out of going in a direction these characters are naturally going in. They’re living in the same house for God’s sake. They have so much in common and they’re so connected that it just makes sense they find each other this way. And it would be strange if Michonne never explored this part of herself. She is a full woman. 

2. Michonne is a well-written black woman character.
Through artful writing the show makes the case that in this post-apocalyptic world (and in any world!), Michonne is a partner you want — sweet, strong, highly intelligent and deeply perceptive. And this is particularly interesting because Michonne’s strength is juxtaposed with the frailty of Rick’s previous two, more traditional romantic leads (both of whom have died on the show). This resonates with many black women whose physical strength and mental tenacity are often shamed as unfeminine. Serena Williams spoke about this in her speech for Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year;

I’ve had people look down on me, put me down because I didn’t look like them — I look stronger. I’ve had people look past me because [of] the color of my skin”

To see a woman character on television whose strength is not cast as conflicting with her sexual allure and femininity is significant.

3. The show is committed to fleshing out the relationship.

After #Richonne went viral, some fans tried to dismiss it as interracial viewer bait. But The Walking Dead showrunner Scott Gimple went on record stating that their relationship would not just be a fling.

These are two people who have suddenly realized—pretty much at exactly the same time, on that couch—what they already had together and who they already were to each other… This isn’t a one-night stand. And what they have was already there, before they even kissed.”

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4. Because Danai Gurira is a dark-skinned, kinky-haired black woman.

We wish colorism still wasn’t an issue. But it is. Dark-skinned black women are consistently pushed into background and supporting roles, their ability to be romantic leads constantly called into question. The Walking Dead explores Gurira’s sensuality and unapologetically gives her the spotlight she deserves.

Any Walking Dead fans here? Ladies, what are your thoughts?

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Sangha
Sangha
4 years ago

Great article. I was shocked they went there because like the article said, the “entertainment” industry does not think heavy melaninated women are beautiful and sexy. This is the first show that portrays this type of beautiful woman in a positive role (HTGAWM started on this path but then they turned Viola’s character into a complete nutcase). Love Danai and Michonne. Hope they don’t kill her off!

S. Williams
S. Williams
4 years ago
Reply to  Sangha

oh but Annalise is a BEAST!!!!! They show the skeletons behind what makes a ruthless lawyer a ruthless lawyer. I LIVE for AK lol women are so dynamic and we hide so much of who we are to multiple people. I am literally watching her skeletons tumble out of her closet like an avalanche lol and on top of that, Viola’s body is full figured, curvy, she’s older, and still gets portrayed as sexy!

Sangha
Sangha
4 years ago
Reply to  S. Williams

I love Viola but the character of AK I find to be emotionally and psychologically disturbed. She’s a brilliant attorney, but her varied emotions always take center stage. It’s like she’s written as bi-polar.

Giovani Amza
Giovani Amza
4 years ago

My hubby loves this show, but is afraid this love interest may die out along with the lead’s other previous girlfriends.

Janet
Janet
4 years ago
Reply to  Giovani Amza

A LOT of people are thinking that! I am too! Everytime he gets with or takes an interest in someone they die!

jbwphoto1
jbwphoto1
4 years ago

Years ago, I said in our little WD discussion group at work that Michonne was Carl’s new Mama. All the white people said she was just a cool aunt. Yes, I pointed this out at work today how I’ve been telling this for years.

Rose
Rose
4 years ago
Reply to  jbwphoto1

Exactly. I could tell from that episode where Carl and Michonne went back to their old neighborhood to retrieve a picture of Carl’s family (after his mother died in the prison, season 3?). You could tell that Carl needed Michonne as his mother figure, and that role especially took on as Michonne became closer to Carl’s baby sister as well!

R LongPig
R LongPig
4 years ago

YYYAAAAAAAAASSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!! Michonne is one of the best female characters hands down on tv right now and she will keep Rick’s crazy ass in line

S. Williams
S. Williams
4 years ago
Reply to  R LongPig

won’t she!!!!! when they first arrived in Alexandria she tried to be patient but the alpha in her had to let him know he needed to “sat his arse down somewhere!” lol

Sevenstars
Sevenstars
4 years ago

Thank you for this great article, you put into words the many reasons I love Richonne and Michonne is my #1 favorite character.

December86
December86
4 years ago

LOVE This show been watching since season 1!

Amber LT
Amber LT
4 years ago

great article and very true. I’m so glad they naturally let this grow

Gamerchic
Gamerchic
4 years ago

I do love seeing any developments in entertainment like this and it’s very significant that she has dark skin and natural hair so it’s not just Viola Davis out there. The timing is good news too because I’ve been watching the comic book shows on various channels and noticed a really, really disturbing trend on the CW. Every black actor/actress they hire in a main role on that whole network (every show I’ve seen) has light skin, every single one of them, except for one new actor who came on recently and has dark skin and a nice head of natural… Read more »

Dani Brown
Dani Brown
4 years ago
Reply to  Gamerchic

I can’t speak on the shows you mentioned, but both The 100 and <i<iZombie (CW shows) have dark-skinned black actors (as well as other POC) as leads and recurring characters. I’m not trying to detract from your point by the way. Just hoping to turn you on to two good shows that might be up your alley.

S. Williams
S. Williams
4 years ago
Reply to  Gamerchic

The Originals got a baaaaaaaaaaaad dark-skinned sista on there with short cropped hair and smooth skin. It’s based in New Orleans too so the diversity in casting is on point! Lots of melanin from all creeds and backgrounds in the show

eve-audrey
eve-audrey
4 years ago
Reply to  S. Williams

I watched the first season of the originals and I don’t remember her

S. Williams
S. Williams
4 years ago

“To see a woman character on television whose strength is not cast as conflicting with her sexual allure and femininity is significant.” <– THIS!!! Even in other shows like Game of Thrones, Brienne and her budding emotions for Jamie and his for her. She is a female Knight that men often mistake as a man. They shame her because she chose to cut her hair and wield a sword over pushing out babies and yet she was seen by the “blond haired fairy-tale Jamie” not as a knight but as a woman, a strong woman who is fully capable of… Read more »

Shannon Page
Shannon Page
4 years ago

yaaaaasssss!!! I was very pleased with the way Scott Gimple evolved this relationship. Danai could not have explained it better

Christiannette Rose
Christiannette Rose
4 years ago

Thank you for this fantastic article, it explains every thing I’m feeling. It’s sad, that some people have a problem with this pairing simply because Michonne is black, and if she were a character who looked like Jessie or Lori people would have been expecting it to happen, but there you go, this is society. I’m so pleased Scott Gimple did this, this relationship is fantastic and as pure as it can get. The way them kissing and getting together happened was PERFECT for their characters; Richonne’s slight fear but excitement at first when they held hands, but Rick smiling… Read more »

S. Williams
S. Williams
4 years ago

I’m sooooooo glad ol girl died LOL that wouldn’t have been an organic pairing anyway bc she did NOT have anyone’s back, not even her own kids. She would’ve gotten Rick killed. only reason he cared enough to glance her way is bc he was in serious need of the vadge during a time where Michonne was flexing her Alpha female to him and had to put him in his place after they arrived at Alexandria

Rose
Rose
4 years ago
Reply to  S. Williams

LMFAO!!! I am in tears, but you are so right. That woman with the kids definitely would have gotten Rick killed. Her stupid child nearly killed CARL!! I was so furious. See how unmatched that relationship was. At least Lori had a lot of strength, but she was not faithful and true. Michonne is a ride or die kind of woman, which actually scares me. I don’t want Michonne or Rick to die. Love and happiness are often so fleeting on this show! Just look at how their amazing moment was interrupted by that new character.

Crystal
Crystal
4 years ago

And that scene was done in one take. No rehearsing. Rick was thoroughly enjoying himself.

Cosita
Cosita
4 years ago

I actually just started watching the show recently because I’m not big on tv. But I started watching the marathon and got addicted. I love horror although my bf and family hate that kind of stuff so I watch alone. The season premier episode was brilliant. I don’t know all the names well yet but when dude’s son got hurt and he went alone to fight zombies she was the first to have his back after she knew son was ok. They have a connection for sure. I love her. I like the other black lady too. Seems like she… Read more »

MalikaiDragonSlayer
MalikaiDragonSlayer
4 years ago
Reply to  Cosita

They don’t have a thing. The redhead and the Latina woman have a thing. Well not yet any way,

Cosita
Cosita
4 years ago

Ok. I’m still new to the show. Figuring it all out. It sounded like he was trying to go there with her in that first episode.

S. Williams
S. Williams
4 years ago
Reply to  Cosita

she got pregnant last season in real life. even tho she appeared in episodes prior to the mid-season finale she splits her time doing her mommy duties but she too (Sasha) is a bad mutha-shut my mouth!

Rose
Rose
4 years ago
Reply to  S. Williams

Yes I LOVE Sasha!! Michonne has locs and Sasha is all natural! TWD is so diverse without effort and being obvious or cliche about it.

Miss.
Miss.
4 years ago

Danai/Michonne is so sexy and beautiful. Like when she turns it on, Rick has no f‑ing chance.

Rogab
Rogab
4 years ago

About time! We have been waiting forever, it seems, for them to become. Thanks TWD

Lola
4 years ago

Finally. In life and on the show!

Dani
Dani
3 years ago

Such a beautiful woman!!

Bridget Early
Bridget Early
4 years ago

My favorite show. Love this Richonne pairing. She’s a warrior and so is he. They have each other’s back and his children love her! Can’t wait to see how this relationship progresses!!!!

Elle P.
Elle P.
4 years ago

Yes!! Michonne is awesome!! I love The Walking Dead!!

Rose
Rose
4 years ago

Whew, I had to wait until I saw the latest episode to read this. I just watched it, and I am still sweating because that was HOT! I have always loved Michonne, and I and other TWD fans have always said how the show is so diverse without even trying. There are so many strong women in this show, people with different ethnic backgrounds and geographical origins; there are people of different ages, weights, and strengths/weaknesses. I love how organic this show is. The show is about much more than zombies. It follows the human consciousness as it tries to… Read more »

beautyindecay
beautyindecay
4 years ago

So happy it finally happened!!!! TWD is my favorite show. It is so wonderful to see two strong women of color on TV who can be role models to all women on and off screen. xx i also live they are both naturals.

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