Danai Jekesai Gurira whi was born February 14, 1978 is an American- Zimbabwean actress and playwright. She is best known for her starring roles as Michonne on the AMC horror drama series The Walking Dead (2012–2020) and as Okoye in the Marvel Cinematic Universe superhero films Black Panther (2018), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), and Avengers: Endgame (2019).
Gurira is also the playwright of the Broadway play Eclipsed, for which she was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Play.
Gurira taught playwriting and acting in Liberia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Gurira said that she began writing plays in an effort to better utilize her strengths as an actress, and to tell stories that convey ideas about strong women with whom she identifies.
As a playwright, she has been commissioned by Yale Repertory Theatre, Center Theatre Group, Playwrights Horizons, and the Royal Court.
In 2015, Lupita Nyong’o starred in Gurira’s play, Eclipsed (2009), Off-Broadway at The Public Theater. It was announced that the play would move to Broadway in 2016 at the John Golden Theatre. It was the first play to premiere on Broadway with an all female and black cast and creative team.
The play is set in war-torn Liberia and focuses on three women who are living as sex slaves to a rebel commander, as well as one of his former wives, and a relief worker, and follows and how they deal with this difficult situation. It starred Lupita Nyong’o, Akosua Busia, Saycon Sengbloh, Zainab Jah, and Pascale Armand and was directed by Liesl Tommy. The inspiration for Gurira’s play was a photo of Colonel Black Diamond, a female freedom fighter from Liberia, in a New York Times article. “Just to see these women standing there, you know, in their jeans and fashionable tops and their hair is all done, and they’re all carrying AK-47s, was just an image I couldn’t get out of my head.” The image prompted curiosity about Liberia’s fourteen-year civil wars, as well as a research trip to Liberia in 2007.
Gurira interviewed more than 30 women who had been raped, among whose daughters that had been taken by rebel fighters and turned into sex slaves. She also spoke to female peace activists who were instrumental in ending the violence. The names of the women in Eclipsed come from the people Gurira met during her travels, whereas the fifth character is unnamed.
She received the 2016 Sam Norkin Award, for Eclipsed and Familiar, presented by the Drama Desk Awards, which said, in part: “Danai Gurira demonstrates great insight, range and depth, bringing a fresh new voice to American theater.”
March 2012, AMC announced on a live broadcast that Gurira would join the cast of their horror-drama series The Walking Dead, the highest rated series in cable television history, in its third season. Gurira plays Michonne, a relentless, katana-wielding character who joins a close-knit group in an apocalyptic world. Gurira played rapper Tupac Shakur’s mother, Afeni Shakur, in All Eyez on Me, a 2017 biopic about the rap star. She then starred in Marvel’s film Black Panther, which was released in February 2018. She played Okoye, the head of the Dora Milaje, the personal bodyguards of the Black Panther, and received critical acclaim for her performance. Gurira reprised Okoye in both Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, released in 2018 and 2019 respectively.
She speaks four languages: French, Shona, basic Xhosa, and English and stays physically fit through Pilates and cross training.
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