The Convert

Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company's THE CONVERT
by Danai Gurira
directed by Michael John Garc├ęs
October 9, 2013November 10, 2013

"Walking Dead" actress talks new play, movie

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.