Danai Gurira may have garnered global fame for her role as Okoye, the ferocious, elegant, and dutiful leader of the all-female bodyguards in the Marvel movie, Black Panther, but that was not the project that brought her to the limelight. Before the blockbuster, the Zimbabwean-American actress, writer, and activist had already made a name for herself as Michonne on the hit horror-drama series, The Walking Dead. Gurira’s portrayal of the fierce zombie slayer made her one of the top-billed stars of the show.
It also endeared her to the audience for about seven years; so, when her departure from the show was announced, it broke the hearts of devoted fans. Many of them have wished her well in her future endeavors whilst pondering what made her walk away from the series.
The Dream That Inspired Her Acting Career
Danai Jekesai Gurira was born on February 14, 1978, in Iowa, the United States. She was five years old when her parents moved her from Grinnell, Iowa, to their homeland of Harare. Her parents, Roger and Josephine Gurira are Zimbabwean academics. Before relocating to their homeland, her father worked as a lecturer in the Department of Chemistry while her mother was a librarian at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. The actress has three siblings, a brother named Tare and two sisters, Shingai and Chiwoniso Gurira.
While growing up, Danai loved watching TV programs and movies but never really aspired to become an actress. That changed after she realized that there was a dearth of people who looked like her on television. The young girl noticed that there were not many stories about women like her on TV and she resolved to do something about it. Having reached that decision, Danai Gurira took more interest in theatre and made her debut as the title character in the Zimbabwean play, My Uncle Grey Bhonzo, in 7th grade.
She continued in like manner all through her secondary school days at Dominican Convent High School, Zimbabwe, and later returned to America for college. In America, the future Hollywood star attended Macalester College where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. She further obtained a Master of Fine Arts degree (MFA in Acting) from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. While at NYU, Gurira wrote her own monologues which eventually bloomed into her first play, In the Continuum; this was in the year 2005.
Her Seven-Year Run on The Walking Dead
Gurira commenced her screen career in the year 2007, appearing in the indie drama film, The Visitor. She gave an excellent performance in the project and went on to score some awards at some movie festivals. It also opened the door for her to land other roles and she went on to appear in movies and TV series including Treme, Law & Order, Lie to Me, American Experience, Life on Mars, 3 Backyards, Ghost Town, American Experience, My Soul to Take, All Eyez on Me, Restless City, and Ma’ George.
After about five years in Hollywood, Danai Gurira got her breakthrough when she was cast to portray the zombie-slayer, Michonne, in the enormously popular show, The Walking Dead. Her role as the fierce katana-wielding survivor consolidated her star status and made her a household name during her seven-year run on the show, 2012-2019. It, therefore, came as a shock to fans when she used the 2019 Comic-Con to announce that she would not be returning to the show.
Departure from The Show and New Projects
Since that announcement, many have been wondering if anything unsavory motivated Gurira to leave but the truth remains that they were no disputes or hard feelings involved. The actress decided to walk away as she felt called to do other things. She has however stated that playing the role of Michonne had been one of the purest joys of her life and that she was thankful for the experience. She has also revealed that she was filed with a lot of pain at her decision and that her heart would always remain on the show.
Following her departure from The Walking Dead, Danai Gurira has focused on her vision of using her talent to better represent African women and stories on TV. The Zimbabwean actress is currently producing a 10-episode miniseries for HBO titled Americanah. Americanah is adapted from a Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie novel about a young lady who was born in Nigeria and relocates to America for further studies. On returning to Nigeria, she reunites with her ex-lover but finds out that their lives have diverged.
Asides her work in Hollywood, Danai is also an activist who is at the forefront of female empowerment and the modern women’s movement. She co-founded Almasi Arts Inc., a non-profit organization devoted to “seeing the Zimbabwean dramatic artists developed to their fullest capacity” and Love Our Girls, a non-profit organization that seeks to “validate girls and women globally and lessens the gender gap inch by inch”.
The Earnings from Her Acting and Writing Career
Danai Gurira has a net worth presently estimated at $4 million. The seasoned actress predictably owes her fortune to The Walking Dead as well as her other notable acting projects including the 2018 blockbuster, Black Panther. In Black Panther, Gurira portrayed the kick-butt General Okoye and it fetched her a paycheck in the seven-figure region. It also led to other significant fees as she has gone ahead to reprise the iconic role on other marvel projects such as Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: End Game.
Another major source of income for Gurira is her work in the theatre sphere. The Walking Dead star is an accomplished playwright who has so far written four plays – In The Continuum (2005), Eclipsed (2009), The Convert (2012), as well as Familiar (2012). She has starred in some of them and they have fetched her various awards. She was nominated for a 2007 Joseph Jefferson Award for Actress in a Principal Role in a Play; this was for In the Continuum. Her second play, Eclipsed, is a Tony-nominated play that made history as the first to feature an all-black female cast and creative team on Broadway in 2016. Gurira’s dramatic writing in The Convert earned her a Whiting Award.
A Look at Danai Gurira’s Personal Life
The actress is presumably one of those stars who love to keep their personal lives under wraps or she is just too busy with her career to date anyone as there are no records of her past relationships. Danai Gurira is possibly single. However, in 2015, she was rumored to have dated her The Walking Dead co-star, Norman Reedus.
This speculation was prompted after Norman Reedus locked lips with Gurira while on the set but she has left her fans wallowing in their speculations as she has neither confirmed nor denied the rumors. The Black Panther star is living her best life. She is an active woman who maintains a healthy and balanced physique. She loves swimming, playing tennis, fields’ hockey, and running track.