ByVaria Fedko-Blake, writer at Creators.co
Staff Writer at Moviepilot! [email protected]
Varia Fedko-Blake

All eyes were on Comic-Con International over this past weekend. Filled to the brim with project announcements, cast appearances and trailer releases, a flurry of pop culture excitement descended on San Diego, sending eager fans into ecstatic meltdown. And amongst the overload of information regarding upcoming projects in the superhero, horror, animation and TV worlds, one announcement really got tongues wagging and it had something to with Marvel's upcoming Black Panther.

We're already familiar with actor Chadwick Boseman, who made quite the splash as T'Challa/Black Panther in 2016's Captain America: Civil War. Yet, ahead of his solo movie release in 2018, the already impressive cast list has continued to grow.

At Comic-Con, as well as officially confirming the casting of Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger and Lupita Nyong'o as Nakia (Black Panther's love interest), it was also announced that The Walking Dead star Danai Gurira will step into the MCU as Okoye.

Here's the actress doing her thing as Michonne in the post-apocalyptic series:

As the fearless commander of the Dora Milaje, Gurira's next character is a loyal follower of T'Challa and acts as his elite, personal bodyguard. A superior warrior, she makes up a group of some seriously badass Wakandan women who aim to protect their nation with their deadly skills. I don't know about you guys, but the role screams Danai in every way and like her fans, she appears just as excited. After being introduced by director Ryan Coogler, Gurira told audiences:

“Oh God. It’s not my first time in Comic-Con. It’s not my first time Hall H. I’m still pinching myself to see this come to life. I’m in that inarticulate place.”

Following the panel appearances, the newly announced cast members then took the following group photo together:

It's understandable why Gurira's upcoming role has been received with such a bow of approval at Comic-Con. Yet although the actress has already rallied quite the following in her role as ruthless, katana-wielding Michonne in AMC's The Walking Dead, her background is still relatively unknown.

So with all of the above information in mind, delve right into everything your need to know about Danai Gurira, your live-action Okoye in Marvel's Black Panther.

1. She's considers herself 'Zamerican'

Danai's heritage stems from Zimbabwe
Danai's heritage stems from Zimbabwe

Born in Iowa in 1983, the actress moved back with her parents to Zimbabwe when she was just 5 years old. These days, her base is firmly back in the States but considering her heritage, she feels very attached to her Zimbabwean roots, even going as far as calling herself "Zamerican." She's previously revealed:

"I sound somewhat American. [But] I'm a bit more abrasive for a Zimbabwean woman. I don't meld fully."

2. She's quite unlike her character on The Walking Dead

Gurira as Michonne in 'The Walking Dead'
Gurira as Michonne in 'The Walking Dead'

Most importantly, she's not the silent type. Speaking in a Q&A with AMC, she's said:

"I’m extremely verbal. I talk. But I get it. I loved not having to talk for awhile. I think Michonne was probably a little bit more of a talker before the apocalypse."

Danai has since also revealed that she has a really loud speaking voice, so much so that her friends in Zimbabwe call her "Megaphone." Who'd have thought?

3. She's far more than just an actress

Thank you #americantheatremagazine for featuring me on February's cover! More about my (unfolding) journey as an actor/playwright/activist here: http://ow.ly/XynWV Photo: Chad Griffith Make-up: Kim Bower for Exclusive Artists Management Story: Diep Tran.

A photo posted by Danai Gurira (@danaigurira) on Feb 2, 2016 at 6:19pm PST

Although Danai may be known best for her appearances in front of the camera, she's also rather active behind the scenes and on the stage. In particular, she's the proud holder of a 2006 Obie Award, a 2006 Outer Critics Award and a 2004 Global Tolerance Award for her playwriting contribution to the self-penned, two-woman show called In The Continuum.

Another play called Eclipsed, which also stars her long-time friend Lupita Nyong'o, also won her tremendous praise.

4. She's a Psychology graduate

#DanaiGurira as featured in @elleusa January 2016 issue. Available in stores now! : @patricshaw | stylist: @yashuasimmons | net top: #therow | earrings: @prada | hair: @vernon_scott | make-up: @christianmcculloch for #dolcegabbana | manicure: @makisakamoto at Kate Ryan Inc. #style #fashion #michonne #danai #TWD #EclipsedPlay

A photo posted by Danai Gurira (@danaigurira) on Dec 11, 2015 at 1:26pm PST

Following high school in Zimbabwe, Danai came back to study in the US, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Macalester College in Minnesota. However, she soon realized that that particular career path was simply not for her and turned to writing and acting instead.

Years later, she earned a Master of Fine Arts in acting from the Tisch School of the Arts in New York, which helped catapult her to where she is today.

5. She's actually not a fan of horror

#TalkingDead - let's do this!

A photo posted by Danai Gurira (@danaigurira) on Feb 21, 2016 at 7:00pm PST

Yep, believe it or not but Danai absolutely hates watching horror movies. Speaking to The Walking Dead official magazine a few years back, she said:

"I'm a scaredy-cat, honestly. I don't watch scary things."

6. She's passionate about bringing African and American artists together

Activism + Broadway? Yes, its possible and important. Thank you, @voguemagazine. Link in the bio to read my Q&A

A photo posted by Danai Gurira (@danaigurira) on Jun 10, 2016 at 7:36pm PDT

As the president of Almasi Arts Alliance, a non-profit organization, Gurira is very active in working to unite African and American artists and to forge collaborations between different institutions. Speaking of the charity that she co-founded back in 2011, the actress has said:

“It’s very important to me because I’m Zimbabwean and American. Going back to Zimbabwe every year, I see a lot of talented artists — directors, writers, actors, playwrights — who don’t have access to training and opportunities, and this bridges that gap.”

Black Panther is scheduled to hit theaters on February 16, 2018.

Michonne in Black Panther! How excited are you on a scale from 1 – 10?

[Sources: The Hollywood Reporter, US Magazine, ]