Get to know Danai Gurira through her 5 most essential projects
As best explained in her EW Digital Cover story, actor and writer Danai Gurira has had a unique career in entertainment spanning more than her iconic turn as Michonne on The Walking Dead. The Iowa-born star of Zimbabwean descent has found a way to stay true to her roots as a stage actor and playwright while continuing to work on bigger and bigger projects, such as Avengers: Endgame (a.k.a. the biggest movie of all time).
Here are five projects Gurira has done, or is about to do, that give a full scope of what the accomplished entertainer is capable of.
The Visitor (2008)
Gurira’s first film role was in Oscar-winning writer/director Tom McCarthy‘s second film. In it, she plays Senegalese immigrant Zainab, who is caught with her Syrian husband Tarek (Haaz Sleiman) staying in the New York apartment of college professor Walter Vale (Richard Jenkins). Her character grows closer to Vale after her husband, an undocumented immigrant, is nabbed by the police and stuck in detention. While the role earned her an award for Best Supporting Actress at the Method Fest Independent Film Festival, Jenkins’ role earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in 2009.
The Walking Dead (2012)
Michonne, the role Gurira has spent seven seasons playing, is the character that most likely made her a household name. At its peak, the show hit over 17 million viewers, who watched as the roaming post-apocalyptic samurai went from loner to leader. Fan-favorite Michonne has made it through the harshest of circumstances on a series that’s already among television’s bleakest shows, making Gurira’s character one of the most important action heroines in TV history.
For her play Eclipsed, Gurira’s role was fully behind the scenes. The actress was already an award-winning playwright for her work In the Continuum, which made it to Off-Broadway. Eclipsed, which tells the story of five Liberian women trying to survive through the Second Liberian Civil War, became one of the Public Theater’s fastest-selling shows in recent history before transferring to Broadway in 2016. The project earned Gurira a Tony nomination for Best Play in 2016. It also marked her first major collaboration with Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o, who played one of the five women in the show.
Black Panther (2018)
As if it weren’t enough to play silent samurai Michonne on The Walking Dead, Gurira traded her sword for a spear and made history again as Okoye, the leader of the imperial guard group the Dora Milaje. This time around, she and Nyong’o got to act opposite each other in an ensemble that included major stars like Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, and Michael B. Jordan. Okoye was one of the few Marvel Cinematic Universe heroes to be spared by Thanos’ snap, meaning she played a significant role in both Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame as well.
Third time’s the charm for Gurira and Nyong’o. The pair are working together to adapt author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie‘s National Book Critics Circle Fiction Award-winning 2013 novel about a young Nigerian woman who leaves the love of her life to immigrate to America. The project is a limited series picked up by the upcoming streaming service HBO Max, with accomplished writer Gurira taking control as showrunner, and Nyong’o as the star. Both actresses will also be producing the project.