Danai Gurira stole the world’s heart when she killed the role of Okoye, the leader of the Dora Milaje, in Marvel’s blockbuster, Black Panther, but there are even more reasons to love this phenomenal actress, playwright, and activist.
This week’s episode of Breaking Big will take a deep drive into the life of the actress who was born in Iowa and grew up in Zimbabwe. The youngest of four siblings who is a star of AMC’s hit series, The Walking Dead, graduated from NYC’s prestigious Tisch School of The Arts and even taught acting and playwriting in Liberia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa.
Her Zimbabwean parents were academics, she said, who believed in letting people learn to think for themselves and speak their minds. She remembers her home in Zimbabwe being filled with books by Martin Luther King Jr., and a picture of the civil rights activist was displayed prominently on a mantle. King had signed the photo for Gurira’s mother, who met him when he gave a speech at her college, Illinois Wesleyan University.
Gurira returned to the U.S. when she was 19 to attend Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn. During her junior year, she had the opportunity to spend a semester abroad, in South Africa.
“It was at that time really that I decided to devote my life’s work to the dramatic arts,” she said, though she was still unsure of how, exactly, she would do that.
In December 2011, she co-founded Almasi Collaborative Arts, a nonprofit that seeks to foster collaboration between Zimbabwean artists and American theater professionals. A key goal is developing arts education for creative people in Zimbabwe. Its website includes the phrase “Kudzidza hakuperi,” meaning that “learning never ends.”
Breaking Big is hosted by OZY‘s CEO and co-founder, Carlos Watson airing on PBS and Facebook Watch.
Check out the clip of Breaking Big: