Danai Gurira Reflects on Journey of Joining Black Panther & Marvel Cinematic Universe

Danai Gurira opens up about her experience in joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Black Panther going to Avengers: Infinity War.

Danai Gurira shared with us her experience so far in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the story of how she was cast. Debuting just last month via Black Panther as Dora Milaje's fearless leader, Okoye, Gurira has quickly become a fan-favorite (as almost everyone in the Ryan Coogler movie). Known for her loyalty to the Wakandan throne, impressive fighting skills, and no-nonsense attitude, she will play a significant part in the fight against mad Titan Thanos.  Being the face of the Wakandan army, the Avengers: Infinity War trailers have shown her at the front lines with T'Challa, Captain America, Bucky and Black Widow given that the secretive African nation will serve as the backdrop for the film's full third act,

The Zimbabwean-American actress is no stranger to comic book properties, having played the katana-wielding badass Michonne in AMC's The Walking Dead for six seasons now. But outside of her TV and movie gigs, Gurira is also an accomplished playwright with works such as Familiar and Eclipse (which fellow Black Panther stars Lupita Nyong'o and Letitia Wright starred in). Her plays oftentimes focus on stories that promulgate female empowerment so it's no wonder she's the perfect fit to bring to life a strong female presence via Okoye in the MCU.

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Sitting down with Screen Rant during the Infinity War set visit in June 2017, Gurira spoke about the journey that she's had thus far regarding being part of the MCU. The actress was announced to be boarding the massive franchise back at 2016 San Diego Comic-Con, and at the time of the interview, it hasn't been a full year since her casting was made public. However, she has already finished filming for Black Panther and is currently in the midst of principal photography for Avengers 3:

It really started with last March. It was actually the opening night of a play I’d written and my manager says, “Oh, by the way–” I was like “what?” I didn’t believe him. I was like “really?” It was an offer to play this role. And so the next month I was going to be in LA and meet up with Mr. Coogler, and just really loved everything he was talking about and the entire vision of it. It was really exciting to think of, you know, I’m an African and as a writer I tell African stories so it really was such an amazing thing just to see, let alone to be a part of, to have a story told from the African perspective on this scale. That was just really thrilling to me.

Of course, I was a deep admirer of Ryan’s work. I loved the concept of Wakanda so much. Its entire premise is just really awesome and something I think, from the third-worlder’s perspective, is something really cherished to imagine a place like that. To me it was deeply important on various levels, so it was a no brainer. We started training and everything in November and it all came together. I’ve just been working with my dear friend Lupita [Nyong'o] on my play and now we’re in this movie together. And then Letitia [Wright] had been doing my play in London - I met her there and now she was in the movie! And then o course, I’m very good friends with Chadwick so it was really an amazing gathering of people. I met some awesome, astounding people there. Really, we worked together to collaborate and build the specifics of this world. There were so many astounding details that the team came up with - Mr. Coogler and Marvel. It felt like it was a really collaborative, intricate, intense process that I think will birth a pretty beautiful child.

It's important to note that at this point in time, Black Panther marketing hadn't begun and shooting had only completed weeks earlier. And while the movie had a smooth-sailing production and Marvel was very confident in it (as explained to us by producer Nate Moore who spoke of a future full of sequels and spinoffs), it was still uncertain how the audience would receive the flick.

The following month during San Diego Comic-Con 2017, the car chase scene shot in Busan, South Korea, was previewed exclusively at the event brought Hall H down and causing the whole cast - who hadn't watched anything from the final cut of the film - to get very emotional. Fast forward to now, the Coogler-directed flick has become one of the highest grossing movies of all time with a current haul of almost $1.2 billion and is the first film to top the box office for five straight weeks since 2009's Avatar.

Thor: Ragnarok's Tessa Thompson famously said that women would rule in MCU's Phase 4 and she could be right. Between the arrival of the franchise's first female headlining superhero in Brie Larson's Captain Marvel and Black Widow's imminent solo movie with Jac Schaeffer, Marvel Studios is looking to finally put their female characters at the forefront. An all-female film is also being pushed, which is something the company president Kevin Feige is open to. And when that movie finally comes to fruition, it's safe to assume that Gurira's Okoye would be there. In the meantime, she'll be busy assisting the Avengers fighting off their most dangerous foe yet in Avengers: Infinity War.

MORE: The Best MCU Rewatch Order For Before Avengers: Infinity War

Key Release Dates
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019
  • Avengers: Infinity War / The Avengers 3 (2018) release date: Apr 27, 2018
  • Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
  • The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
  • Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) release date: Jul 06, 2018
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