[Warning: Spoilers] Season 6 episode 10

Last night on ‘The Walking Dead’ fans got what many were asking for. Rick and Michonne hooking up. Last night was a bit of a rest from the battles they’ve been up against lately. With calm comes new opportunity. The chance to see things differently. That’s exactly what happens for Rick and Michonne. We also met Jesus (Tom Payne) last night who clearly looks like trouble for the group and Spencer (Austin Nichols) also found his walker mom Deanna (Tovah Feldshuh).

THR sat down with Andrew Lincoln and Danai Gurira just before last nights episode aired to get their take on the new romance which is a departure from the story in Robert Kirkman’s comic.

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What was your response like when you found out that Rick and Michonne were going to finally be romantically paired?

Lincoln: I was preoccupied shooting the episode before [the midseason premiere] and Danai wasn’t on set for a couple days. When she came on set, she was weird — she wasn’t making eye contact and was a bit strange. I asked what was wrong and she asked if I’d read [this episode] yet. I said, “What do you mean? I was trying to save the world from the zombie apocalypse, what do you mean? I haven’t had a chance to read it!” She said read the script. I sat there and screamed when I read it. I ran to her trailer, banged on her door and screamed, “Why didn’t you tell me?!” It’s insane and I loved it! It is a strange experience because their relationship for so long — as friends and as actors — we’ve been playing a certain complicated, difficult, respectful and loving almost familial relationship. And to step through the portal into this new place was really trippy. Danai was brilliant and so funny on set and said, “Let’s just go for this; I don’t want to talk about it too much. Let’s just go for it.” We wanted it to be these two grownups and warriors who love and respect each other. That’s a given. And then they get completely surprised in this moment. And then they look at each other and say, “Of course.” That was the transition that we wanted: for it to be sexy, committed and key. We wanted it to be different and grown up and very relaxed and natural. That’s what we were fighting for. It’s that kiss it’s the kiss and to capture that was key.

Gurira: It makes sense to me. It made sense to me since the “Clear” episode, I remember chatting about it for the first time with [current showrunner Scott] Gimple, but, back then it wasn’t his call [he wrote the episode under then-boss Glen Mazzara]. I thought, “Rick is a guy that she really respects.” She’s willing to align and open up and be her better self as a result of his insistence that she be not who she was when she first got to the prison gates with that baby powder and formula. It was like being in a world where her ex had betrayed her and the world had men like The Governor (David Morrissey) and Merle (Michael Rooker) in it and then meeting someone like Rick and deciding this is who I’m going to align with. Michonne respects him, what he’s trying to do and how he’s trying to keep his and other people’s children safe. That made sense to me as someone who she could ultimately connect with this way. And there is such an intimacy that’s grown between them over the course of several seasons that [this romance] seemed well earned.

What was shooting your first love scene like? This is something fans have been campaigning for.

Gurira: I know! I’m so glad I wont get railed about it every time I’m anywhere. People are like, “Why aren’t you with Rick?!” Everywhere I go I get that! The scene on the couch was the first between them in terms of character progression. We both sat there after the first take because it felt natural for the both of us and it felt natural for these characters to be right where they were — like they’re exactly where they should be at this point. We didn’t feel awkward; it felt very organic. It progressed from a very long and intimate friendship. It made it feel natural for the characters’ journey.

Do you think the writing has been on the wall for Michonne? Was this something she always had that in the back of her mind?

Gurira:No. I don’t think she was even aware until it happened. I think she was aware she loved Rick and Carl, but the idea of seeing Rick as someone she was going to get with? No. It only comes upon her the same time it comes upon him, which is on that couch. Michonne is really good at shutting things down, like when we first met her she shut a lot of things down and then she started to let those things open up again and become more sociable, talkative, caring and open. Her walls started to come down. But there’s one wall that she had not let down and that was the wall around her heart. The idea of being romantic with someone, she had had a wall up ever since what happened with her ex with the assault of her child.

What prompted the shift in Michonne?

Gurira: What Deanna asks her [in the midseason finale] — “What do you want for yourself?” — that question takes her by surprise. That was getting into the heart area that Michonne had a wall up around ever since her last tragedy. She has a new lease on life: Carl recovered, Alexandria is stable, Rick and Michonne have their home and Rick has now embraced everybody. Then the day just progresses as a perfect storm. Seeing Deanna’s son Spencer do what he has to do with his mother and seeing her face again and remembering the last thing she said — Michonne promised that she would figure out what she wants. Seeing Spencer’s pain and hearing Carl say that he sees her as his mother — she keeps receiving love all day. The idea of Rick going out of his way to make sure to bring back something of what she asks for [mints] since he couldn’t bring back the toothpaste was really sweet. It’s letting her heart out from behind the wall. It’s in that moment where she holds on to his hand. Rick does stuff for her all the time, but today she actually held it back because this was the one that meant her heart got to be the steering wheel.

This is a huge departure from the comics. Obviously Andrea (Laurie Holden) isn’t around anymore. How do you think diehard comic book fans will respond to Rick and Michonne’s romantic pairing? I certainly didn’t expect it to happen, let alone for it to be in this episode.

Lincoln: A lot of people are probably going to have the same reaction that you and I did. It feels absolutely normal, it feels right. It does mean massive repercussions for everybody else. And there is a small matter of Carl in all this and how he’s going to react. You’ll see that play out quickly. Comic fans, I hope, will love it just as much as I did when I read it because it is one of the great and important things we have to do with our show: separate ourselves from the comic book.