Best Theatrical Surprise
In 2011, a Chicago theater produced a stage reading of a deeply personal play I wrote called The Convert—it's set in Zimbabwe, where I grew up, in 1896 and focuses on a 16-year-old girl who's caught between her people's customs and her newfound faith. I was so nervous because I wasn't sure if American audiences would relate. But then the crowd laughed when they were supposed to and gasped at the right times. It even got a standing ovation!

Best Place to Write
On a plane. Writing at coffee shops works only until I have to use the bathroom—which means picking up all my stuff and lugging it with me. When I'm flying, it's just me with a laptop and my imagination.

Best Companion
My rescue dog was named Pierre, but I started calling him Papi after I saw how commanding he is around bigger dogs. I sometimes imagine he was the head of a drug cartel in a former life, and I'm just his cover.

Best Fan Moment
About three years ago, my hairstylist on The Walking Dead showed me a picture that his friend, a tattoo artist, had sent him: It was my face on a man's calf! I was in utter shock—and even more so when I started to see different tattoos of my face popping up online. That's when I knew my life was a little different.

Best Holiday
Valentine's Day, which is also my birthday. It's always a guarantee that someone is going to buy me dinner.


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