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Danai Gurira Bio
Danai Gurira (born February 14, 1978) is a Zimbabwean-American actress and playwright, best known for her role as Michonne on The Walking Dead, an AMC television horror drama series, as the writer of the Tony Award-winning play Eclipsed, and as Okoye in the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise, beginning with Black Panther.
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 actor, 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.
She co-wrote and co-starred in In the Continuum, first at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company and later off-Broadway, which won her an Obie Award, an Outer Critics Circle Award, and a Helen Hayes Award for Best Lead Actress. In December 2011, In the Continuum commemorated World AIDS Day 2011. The play, sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in Zimbabwe, was performed at Harare’s Theatre and featured the story of two women who were navigating the world after contracting HIV.
In 2009, Gurira made her acting debut on Broadway in August Wilson’s play Joe Turner’s Come and Gone playing Martha Pentecost.
Her 2012 play The Convert was premiered as a co-production between the Goodman Theatre in Chicago and the McCarter Theatre in New Jersey. Later that year, Gurira received the Whiting Award for an emerging playwright.
In January 2015, Familiar, a play written by Gurira and directed by Rebecca Taichman, opened at Yale Repertory Theatre. It later premiered Off-Broadway in New York at Playwrights Horizons. The play is about family, cultural identity, and the experience of life as a first-generation American, and Gurira has said that it was inspired in part by family and friends of hers.
In 2015, Lupita Nyong’o starred in Gurira’s 2009 play, Eclipsed, Off-Broadway at The Public Theater. It was announced 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, and is about how they deal with this difficult situation. The play was inspired by a photograph of female fighters and their tale of survival. It starred Saycon Sengbloh, Akosua Busia, Lupita Nyong’o, Zainab Jah and Pascale Armand and was directed by Liesl Tommy.
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.” Eclipsed was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Play, and won the Tony Award for Best Costume Design in a Play.
Film and television
Gurira starred in the 2007 film The Visitor, for which she won Method Fest Independent Film Festival Award for Best Supporting Actress. She has appeared in the films Ghost Town, 3 Backyards, My Soul to Take, and Restless City, as well the television shows Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Life on Mars, and Law & Order. From 2010 to 2011, she appeared in the HBO drama series Treme.
In 2013, Gurira played a lead role in director Andrew Dosunmu’s independent drama film Mother of George, which premiered at 2013 Sundance Film Festival. Gurira received critical acclaim for her performance as a Nigerian woman struggling to live in the United States. In June 2013, Gurira won the Jean-Claude Gahd Dam award at the 2013 Guys Choice Awards.
Gurira played rapper Tupac Shakur’s mother, Afeni Shakur, in All Eyez on Me (2017), a biopic about the rap star. She starred in Marvel‘s film Black Panther (2018), as Okoye, the head of the Dora Milaje, the personal body guards of the Black Panther. She received critical acclaim for her portrayal as Okoye.
In 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. Together they are forced to relentlessly fight flesh-eating zombies and certain of the few surviving humans, some of whom are even more diabolical and dangerous than the zombies themselves. Gurira had to learn how to ride horses for the show, which she enjoyed because it was a physical challenge.
In 2008, Gurira appeared at the Global Green Sustainable Design Awards to read a letter written by a New Orleans native displaced by Hurricane Katrina.
In 2011, Gurira co-founded Almasi Arts Inc., an organization dedicated to continuing arts education in Zimbabwe. Gurira currently serves as the Executive Artistic Director.
In 2015, Gurira signed an open letter begun by the ONE Campaign. The letter was addressed to Angela Merkel and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, urging them to focus on women as they serve as the head of the G7 in Germany and the AU in South Africa respectively. The following year Gurira founded the non-profit organization Love Our Girls, which aims to highlight the issues and challenges that specifically affect women throughout the world. In 2016 Gurira partnered with Johnson & Johnson in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Danai Gurira (age: 41) is a Zimbabwean-American actress and playwright best known as Michonne on The Walking Dead and as Okoye in the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise, beginning with Black Panther.