“The Walking Dead,” a gruesome post-apocalyptic drama about what happens to humanity when it’s stripped of civilized society, isn’t a commentary on the tense political climate in this country — except when it is.
On Tuesday, cast members of the AMC zombie series, set to premiere its eighth season later this month, were on hand during a donation ceremony at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History to chat about how their story of survival could resonate off-screen.
After posing next to her katana blade (now enshrined with other iconic props from the show at the Smithsonian along with Fonzie’s leather jacket and Dorothy’s ruby slippers), actress Danai Gurira said that the real world feels like a constant battle, much like the fictional universe occupied by her character, the self-taught samurai Michonne.
“The Walking Dead,” Gurira said, is about how people “respond in the most dire of circumstances.”
“And honestly in the United States right now, there are some components of what we’re dealing with that feel like the most dire of circumstances to many of us,” Gurira said. “Every day, you’re looking at various things and you say: ‘Is this who we are? Is this how we respond to shootings? Is this how we respond to alt-right marches? Is this how we respond to climate change? Who are we?’ ”
She added: “Because it does feel like a setback, and if it is, then it does parallel with the show. The question is, how do I as an individual and how do we as a collective respond to the setback? Who are you going to be now?”
Norman Reedus, who plays crossbow-wielding antihero Daryl, took a decidedly less political view of the show. Every generation thinks the sky is falling, according to the actor. But what about the folks looking for an umbrella?
“Make a stand and say what you need to say and do what you need to do and protect your friends even before you protect yourself,” Reedus said. “Self-sacrifice and bonding together is really what the show is about.”
The show’s lead actor, Andrew Lincoln, who plays jaded protagonist Rick, was uncharacteristically diplomatic.
Lincoln said he was “hesitant to draw any allegories” between “The Walking Dead” and the waking world. “That’s the job of the audience,” he said. So he would sidestep “pontificating too deeply.” Still, the actor did have some “broad stroke” thoughts in between zombie-killing scenes.
“On a human level, I think we’re saying a lot of interesting things about the irrelevance of tribalism,” he continued. “Ultimately when everything is pulled away, who cares what color, creed, gender, take your pick? It’s irrelevant. It’s how you stand up and how you behave.”