The Many Talents of Danai Gurira (1978-)
By Christina Schultz
Most of you might recognize the self-proclaimed “Zimerican” actor as Michonne from AMC’s hit show The Walking Dead (2010-), currently in its eighth season, or from Marvel’s wildly successful film Black Panther and the brand new Marvel film Avengers: Infinity War (U.S. release April 27, 2018) in her role as Okoye.
But have you heard of the film Mother of George? Nigerian director Andrew Dosunmu’s film co-stars Danai Gurira in a role more modest and subdued than the ones for which she has become famous. Danai’s performance in the film earned her a Black Reel Award for Outstanding Actress in 2014 and the film itself received critical praise. Such work reveals Danai’s versatility as an actor and I highly recommend the film to those who haven’t seen it. She is definitely capable of more than slashing down zombies with her prized katana or kicking ass with the other members of the Dora Milaje. But don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy and quite honestly relish her in these badass roles. I have had a longtime crush on (Danai’s portrayal of) Michonne, and am now in love with her sassy portrayal of Okoye.
Crushes aside, did you know that Danai is an accomplished playwright? Her first play Eclipsed, which debuted in 2009 and went to Broadway in 2016, was nominated for several Tony Awards and won for Best Costume Design. It was, more importantly, the first Broadway play in history to star an all-black, all-female cast and to have a female writer (Danai) and director (Liesl Tommy). The story is about a group of women being held captive in Liberia who describe the horrors of rape and violence. Distressing but incredibly important issues. She also won critical acclaim off-Broadway with the more comedic play Familiar (see trailer below), the story of a Zimbabwean family preparing for their first-generation American daughter’s wedding.
I believe her African upbringing, which clearly influences her works, was part of the reason she started the Love Our Girls site. Ever heard of that? If you haven’t, you should. Love Our Girls is Danai’s incredibly inspirational site, which I also think is the perfect word to describe Danai herself: inspirational. Here is an excerpt from the site’s story of “genesis” that highlights this and reveals so much about Danai personally...
“I was born on February 14th, 1978. My father named me Danai, in commemoration of my birth on the day of love and romance; Danai, in my parent’s native tongue, Shona, means to be in love or to love one another. I always embraced this day of teddy bears and excessive red roses as my day. But I have finally figured out a more purposeful meaning of Valentine’s day. This year, and every year to come, I am seeking to reclaim Valentine’s Day, to make it about loving our girls.”
She continues her story:
“I want to reclaim Valentine’s Day as a day when we seek to validate our girls and women globally and lessen the gender gap inch by inch. It has to start with love – love being a verb, not a noun. Join me in making women and girls your Valentine, in making the world a better place for just one woman or girl on the globe. Every month, on the 14th, pledge with me to bring awareness to your network of the struggles, experiences or challenges of a girl or woman across the world.
Let’s do this. Let’s love our girls.”
Real talk: I have goosebumps right now. Not only is Danai Gurira a talented and successful actor and playwright, she is an advocate for real, positive change. I cannot even express how much I admire this woman - but I’m trying my best here. Love Our Girls raises awareness for so many issues women all over the world are facing, of which we are often unaware or simply forget about in developed countries because we have it so good. Issues like lack of proper nutrition and healthcare, no access to education, being forced into arranged marriages or being sold as sex slaves subject to rape and abuse. The Love Our Girls pledge helps us keep these injustices fresh in our minds while reminding us to love our girls. The world has enough hate, so let’s love instead. Sounds like a plan to me.
It goes without saying that we at Femfilmfans have taken the pledge. If you feel as strongly about these issues as Danai does, and as we do, take the pledge too.
 Lee Miller, Victoria. "'The Walking Dead': 5 things you didn't know about Danai Gurira." Yahoo Entertainment, August 17, 2017.