Name: Danai Jekesai Gurira
Born: February 14, 1978
Place of Birth: Grinnell, Iowa
Occupation: Actress and Playwright
Years active: 2004- present
Speaks four languages- French, Shona, basic Xhosa, and English
Best known for her role as Okoye in Black Panther and Michonne in the Walking Dead
Early Life and education
Danai Gurira is a Zimbabwean-American actress who started writing plays and later moved to acting on the big screen. She was born in Grinnell, Iowa to parents Josephine and Roger Gurira. Josephine was a university librarian and her husband Roger was a lecturer in the department of chemistry at the university of Wisconsin-Platteville. The Gurira’s moved to the United States from Southern Rhodesia in 1964 and lived in Grinnell until December in 1983 when Zimbabwe gained independence. After moving back to Zimbabwe at age 5, Danai attended high school at Dominican Covenant High school. She later returned to the USA to study psychology at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota and proceeded to earn a Masters in Fine Arts in acting, from New York University’s Tisch School of Arts.
Danai shares that she started writing plays to utilize her strengths as an actor and to accurately convey her ideas of strong women she could relate to. She was commissioned as a playwright by the Yale Repertory Theatre, Centre Theatre Group, Playwrights horizon and the Royal court.
Gurira co-wrote and co-starred in a play titled In the Continuum which played at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company (Washington DC) and Off-Broadway (New York). The play was then sponsored by the US embassy in Zimbabwe to perform at the Harare Theatre in 2011. The brilliant piece was focused on the story of two women who were working through the challenges of the world after contracting the HIV virus. She received the following accolades for this piece of work: an Obie Award, an Outer Critics Circle Award, and a Helen Hayes Award for Best Lead Actress. In the Continuum, commemorating WORLD AIDS DAY in 2011.
2009- Danai, made her acting debut on Broadway in August Wilson’s play Joe Turner’s Come and Gone playing the roll of Martha Pentecost.
2012- She received the Whiting Award for an emerging playwright
2015- Familiar, a play written by Gurira and directed by Rebecca Taichman, opened at Yale Repertory Theatre; film later premiered Off-Broadway in New York Playwrights Horizon.
2015- Actress Lupita Nyong’o starred in Gurira’s 2009 play, Eclipsed, Off-Broadway at the Public Theatre.
2016- Gurira received the Sam Norkin Award for Eclipsed and Familiar
Eclipsed was nominated for the Tony Award for the Best Play and won the Tony Award for the Best Costume Design in a Play.
During a live broadcast AMC announced that Gurira would be joining the third season of the horror-drama series and highest rated series in cable television history, The Walking Dead. Danai plays the character Michonne and together with her co-stars they are in a fight against flesh-eating zombies.
Here’s a list of other films Danai has appeared in:
My Soul to Take
Law & Order: Criminal Intent
Life on Mars
Law & Order
Mother of George
All Eyez on Me
2008, Appeared at the Global Green Sustainable Design Awards to read a letter by a New Orleans native displaced by the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina
2011, Gurira Co-founded and serves as the Executive Artistic Director at Almasi Arts Inc., an organization focused on continuing the arts education in Zimbabwe.
2015, signed an open letter started by the ONE Campaign addressed to Angela Markel and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, urging them to focus on serving women’s needs as they were to represent Germany and AU South Africa in the G7.
2016, Founded the non-profit organization, Love Our Girls, which highlights the issues and challenges that affect women and girls throughout the world logpledge.org/ .
2016, Gurira collaborated with Johnson and Johnson to fight against HIV AIDS