While the Marvel Studio film Black Panther doesn’t hit theaters until 2018, Danai Gurira is hailing its importance. The film, directed by Ryan Coogler (Creed) and starring Chadwick Boseman as the titular hero, features Gurira as Okoye, the head of the Black Panther’s personal guard.
Though she’s more widely known as the sword-wielding Michonne on The Walking Dead, Gurira is also well known for bringing stories of African people to the stage and screen. Her first play was In the Continuum, a two-woman play she wrote and performed which told the story of two black women with HIV in Africa and is based on people she met and knew while living in Zimbabwe as a teen in the 80s and 90s. This production was simply the first of many throughout her career and includes her 2016 Tony Award nominated play Eclipsed which told the story of women trying to survive the Second Liberian Civil War.
African stories, especially those of women, are important to her.
ET caught up with the actress to ask her how this passion relates to her turn in a potential blockbuster superhero movie. She feels Black Panther could be a turning point in such films by moving the focus not only away from the traditional superhero figure, but also moving the narrative of the film to Africa, specifically the fictionalized country of Wakanda.
I grew up seeing a lot of superheroes and they didn’t look like me and they certainly weren’t in Africa. I think that it is something great for girls who are like me growing up. Growing up in Africa, we were looking for images we couldn’t always find. I want to see stories coming from the black female perspective…We’re at a far better moment than we were at in the past, but there’s a lot of work to be done.
The character of Wakandan ruler T’Challa, the Black Panther, is considered the first black superhero in mainstream comics making his first appearance more than 50 years ago, in July 1966. The character first appeared in the MCU in this year’s Captain America: Civil War.
Black Panther is scheduled for release in the US on February 16, 2018.