A behind-the-scenes video from the making of Danai Gurira's last episode of The Walking Dead as Michonne reveals how filmmakers accomplished a hallucination sequence where Michonne imagines herself as a high-ranking Savior and the "right hand gal" of Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). In "What We Become," Michonne is drugged with jimsonweed by Virgil (Kevin Carroll), causing her to trip through key moments from her past but with disturbing twists. When Michonne is called back to the lineup where Negan fatefully selected Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) and Glenn (Steven Yeun) for execution at the end of barbwire-wrapped baseball bat Lucille, it's Michonne who terrorizes Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his people before making the kill.
"Being on the side of Negan, at first it was seriously trippy. And then I sort of started to enjoy it," Gurira admits in the video. "The scene where we're all lined up, evil is fun."
To insert Savior Michonne into scenes originally recorded for the Season 6 finale, "Last Day on Earth," and the Season 7 premiere, "The Day Will Come When You Won't Be," newly recorded and reused footage was blended together with stand-ins doubling for actors who have since left the show. According to showrunner Angela Kang, the technique also called on unaired footage filmed years earlier.
"Obviously we didn't bring everybody back to the lineup," executive producer Denise Huth says with a laugh. In reality, the real lineup included Rick, Michonne, Abraham, Glenn, Maggie (Lauren Cohan), Carl (Chandler Riggs), Daryl (Norman Reedus), Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green), Rosita (Christian Serratos), Eugene (Josh McDermitt) and Aaron (Ross Marquand).
"To blend some of these scenes, we had a blue screen set up. So anytime we had Michonne interacting with someone who's not here, we would do that against blue screen. And then we had a playback operator who could blend the actual two frames together," explains director Sharat Raju. "The trick, of course, is getting also the lighting correct to match from lighting that they did five years ago. All of these tools have helped us to conceive of these scenes and execute them."
Big Ass Bat
One original did return: the same prop bat used to kill Abraham and Glenn in "The Day Will Come When You Won't Be."
"We had to go back and pull out the original Lucille," says property master Niko Zahlten. "We did some forced-perspective camera shots where we had to bring out Big Lucille. We got some really neat shots."
"It came out of conversations about the key moments that shaped Michonne into the person she is right in this moment," Kang told The Hollywood Reporter about Michonne's trippy nightmare. "In talking about it, we decided there were these certain key turning points where if she made a different decision, everything would have gone down a completely different path. That's part of the fun for me in writing the show, and a lot of the fans of watching. People come to these forks in the road and they can go one way or they can go another way."
"A lot of times, people argue that the character should have done another thing, but sometimes that other thing takes you down a completely different path in the long run. We felt it would be fun to show you one of those stories that's a parallel universe," she continued. "If Michonne made these key decisions, what happens if she goes the other way? What does she take away from that that might help her in her journey?"