Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

Danai Gurira next ‘Walking Dead’ star

Danai Gurira, who plays Michonne in “The Walking Dead,” is playing such a popular character on the AMC  series that you can bet her star power will have shot up dramatically when she finally decides to go back to stage work.

She doesn’t worry about how a TV show will impact her career on stage  because long before Gurira started leading two limbless, jawless zombies around on the AMC series, she had distiquished herself as a stage actor and writer.

She made her Broadway debut in August Wilson’s “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” in 2009. Before that, in 2006, Gurira won an Obie Award, Outer Critics Circle Award for writing, and the Helen Hayes Award for Best Lead Actress for her off-Broadway play “In the Continuum.”

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Entertainment this weekend

There are several good entertainment choices for the weekend.

“The Walking Dead,” 9 p.m. Sunday, AMC: The third season opens with back-to-back episodes. The story picks up after the handful of survivors have spent the winter on the run from the walkers (you know them better as zombies). It appears they may be headed for some relief as the group finds a prison. All they have to do is clean out all the walkers and they will finally have a place to call home. But, this is “The Walking Dead” and that means nothing is what it seems. Don’t be scared away thinking this is a zombie show. “The Walking Dead” is a superb examination of the human condition and what a person would do to maintain even a small part of their humanity.

“Argo”: If this story had been written as fiction, it would have been too unbelievable to work. The fact it’s based on real events around the 1979 hostage crisis makes the outlandish very real. Ben Affleck turns in a sterling performance as the CIA agent who comes up with a plan to pretend a movie is going to be shot in Iran as a way to save six Americans. Affleck also continues to show he’s a superb director.

“Prometheus”: The film is a feast for the eyes. Director Ridley Scott elevates the visuals to a new sci-fi high in this tale of explorers following a map to the far reaches of outer space. From the holographic images on the ship to the massive beehive-like structures, the film is glorious in design. The casting is nearly as perfect, with Noomi Rapace’s passionate performance balanced by the cold and methodical thinking of Charlize Theron’s character. There are a few minor flaws: Idris Elb, who plays the ship’s captain, is underused; and Guy Pearce works under mounds of makeup as the mission’s rich benefactor. There’s no reason a younger actor had to be cast and put through such extensive makeup. Scott’s titanic effort in “Prometheus” yields such a visual triumph that small flaws can be overlooked.

TCA news: ‘Walking Dead’ stumbles

103_TWD_2010702_SG-7837.JPG “The Walking Dead” has become the walking wounded.

Frank Darabont – the man who was a major player in transforming Robert Kirkman’s graphic novels into the superb AMC TV show – has left the series. As executive producer, writer and pilot director, Darabont gave life to this show about zombies.

AMC reports Kirkman, an executive producer and writer on the series, will remain in this role and Gale Anne Hurd will remain in her role as Executive Producer. This means the show’s not dead but it could stumble around for a few episodes without Darabont.

Joel Stillerman, Senior Vice President of Original Programming, Production, and Digital Content for AMC, thanked Darabont for his contributions.

“He’s a visionary writer and director. He wrote a brilliant pilot. He directed a brilliant pilot. His fingerprints are all over the adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s brilliant source material to the television show that you see,” Stillerman says.

Stillerman would offer no details about Darabont’s departure.

As for season 2, the series will continue to use Kirkman’s books as a base but look for some differences.

“One of the things we set out to do from day one, and one of the things that Robert Kirkman has been adamant about, is that we take some twists and turns. For those of you who were comparing and contrasting the books and the show, you’ll note that the fabulously talented John Bernthal, who plays Shane, is still alive. That was probably slightly unexpected, and we have some equally unexpected twists and turns coming up in Season 2, but a lot of stuff you’ll recognize,” Stillerman says.

The second season is slated to launch Oct. 16.

Robert Kirkman interview lucky break

IMG_8147.jpg I tried for weeks before the AMC series “The Walking Dead” went on the air to get an interview with Robert Kirkman. If you have seen the cable series based on his Image Comics series that launched in 2003, then you know the guys is an amazing writer. Every effort failed. Finally, the show went on the air without landing even a few minutes with Kirkman.

It looked like the recent WonderCon was going to be the answer as Kirkman was scheduled to be at the San Francisco event for three days. The result of weeks of e-mails and telephone calls to the publicist to line up an interview ended the same way. There was to be no interview with Kirkman.

Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than diligent. I arrived at the room where I was to do interviews for the new “Green Lantern” video to find it empty except for two men. Kirkman was being interviewed. As soon as the interview was over, I walked over to tell Kirkman how much I liked his work.

“Are you my 10:45 interview?” Kirkman asked. I told him that my efforts to talk to him fell on ears as dead as zombies.

“Well, the other person is late. If you’re ready we can talk now,” Kirkman says. I didn’t tell him I had been prepared for this interview for months.

It took a long time to happen, but the interview with Kirkman was worth it. You’ll see that story in a few weeks.