Danai Gurira is unstoppable. As the sword-swinging Michonne on the hit zombie apocalypse drama, AMC’s The Walking Dead, the Zimbabwean actress and playwright is also making history on Broadway by creating the first all-black cast and crew with Eclipsed. She’s also signed on to play the mother of late rapper Tupac, Afeni Shakur, in the highly anticipated ‘Pac biopic All Eyez On Me.
Billboard recently caught up with Gurira before she accepted the Star Power award at BET’s Black Girls Rock! on Friday (April 1) to discuss her forthcoming role as Afeni, working with The Walking Dead‘s latest addition and her go-to fight songs.
Billboard: You’re playing Afeni Shakur in Tupac’s forthcoming biopic All Eyez On Me. What have you learned from playing her in the process?
Danai Gurira: Oh, there’s so much we don’t know about how our freedoms were fought for. There’s a whole other corner of our history that I don’t think has been celebrated or explored. There’s a lot of shoulders that we stand on that we don’t recognize and realize.
What did you learn about Tupac that you didn’t know before?
I didn’t actually know exactly how much of a poet he was. I didn’t know how versed in Shakespeare he was. I didn’t know how he loved [artist Vincent] van Gogh when he was 11. He was kind of extraordinary. He was a revolutionary and he could’ve gone in any direction. Rap happened to be the medium he chose. It was the one he had access to in regards to where he was at that time but he could’ve gone so many different ways.
Describe working with The Walking Dead newcomer Negan.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s just phenomenal. Working with him was harrowing and also, as an artist, extremely gratifying.
What songs would be on your fight playlist?
It depends on the scene. Sometimes, I got to go to a spiritual place and I’ve got to go with Tasha Cobbs “Warrior.” There are different ways to be a warrior. Sometimes, I gotta go to Tupac’s “Only God Can Judge Me.” Like, for what I got to do right now, only [God] can judge me because he understands my situation. It really depends on the scene.
Switching gears, have you decided who you’ll vote for in the upcoming election?
I’m definitely looking at Bernie [Sanders] and Hillary [Clinton]. The exciting thing about Hillary is that woman has been through so much. She’s not just a fighter, she’s a survivor. [Going from] a black president and then [possibly] a female president back to back is showing an evolution that I think is important for young girls to see.