Danai Gurira

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Danai Gurira
Danai Gurira at the 2015 San Diego Comic Con
Born Danai Jekesai Gurira
(1978-02-14) February 14, 1978 (age 38)
Grinnell, Iowa, United States
Citizenship American
Alma mater Macalester College (B.A)
New York University (M.F.A.)
Occupation Actress, playwright, model
Years active 2004–present
Website danaigurira.com

Danai Jekesai Gurira (born February 14, 1978) is a Zimbabwean American actress and playwright, best known for her role as Michonne on The Walking Dead, an AMC television horror drama series, and as the writer of the Tony Award-winning play Eclipsed.

Early life[edit]

Gurira was born in Grinnell, Iowa, to Josephine Gurira, a university librarian, and Roger Gurira, a lecturer in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Wisconsin–Platteville.[1][2][3] Her parents came to the United States from Southern Rhodesia, which is now Zimbabwe, in 1964.[4] She is the youngest of four siblings; Shingai and Choni are her sisters and Tare, her brother,[2] is a chiropractor. Gurira lived in Grinnell until December 1983, when at age five she and her family moved back to Harare, Zimbabwe,[5] after the country gained independence.[6]

She attended high school at Dominican Convent High School. Afterwards, she returned to the United States to study at Macalester College,[3] in Saint Paul, Minnesota, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology.[4] Gurira also earned a Master of Fine Arts in acting, from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts.[7]


Gurira at the 2013 The Walking Dead event.


Gurira said that she began writing plays in an effort to better utilize her strengths as an actor, and to tell stories that convey ideas about strong women with whom she identifies.[4] She co-wrote and co-starred in the off-Broadway play In the Continuum, which won her an Obie Award, an Outer Critics Circle Award, and a Helen Hayes Award for Best Lead Actress.[7] In December 2011, In the Continuum commemorated World AIDS Day 2011. The play, sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in Zimbabwe, was performed at Harare’s Theatre and featured the story of two women who were navigating the world after contracting the AIDS virus.[8]

In 2009, Gurira debuted on Broadway in August Wilson's play Joe Turner's Come and Gone.[9] Gurira received the Whiting Award in 2012.[10] In January 2015, Familiar, a play written by Gurira and directed by Rebecca Taichman, opened at Yale Repertory Theatre.[11] The play is about family, cultural identity, and the experience of life as a first-generation American, and Gurira has said that it was inspired in part by family and friends of hers.[12]

In 2015, Lupita Nyong'o starred in Gurira's 2009 play, Eclipsed, at The Public Theater.[13] It was announced the play would move to Broadway from Off-Broadway.[14][15] The play is set in war-torn Liberia and focuses on three women who are living as sex slaves to a rebel commander, and is about how they deal with this difficult situation.[16] The play was inspired by a photograph of female fighters and their tale of survival.[17] It stars Saycon Sengbloh, Akosua Busia, Lupita Nyong'o, Zainab Jah and Pascale Armand and is directed by Liesl Tommy.[18]

She received the 2016 Sam Norkin Award, for Eclipsed and Familiar, presented by the Drama Desk Awards, which said, in part: "Danai Gurira demonstrates great insight, range, and depth, bringing a fresh new voice to American theater."[19] Eclipsed was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Play, and won the Tony Award for Best Costume Design in a Play.[20]


Gurira starred in the 2007 film The Visitor, for which she won Method Fest Independent Film Festival Award for Best Supporting Actress. She has appeared in the films Ghost Town, 3 Backyards, My Soul to Take, and Restless City, as well the television shows Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Life on Mars, and Law & Order. From 2010 to 2011, she appeared in the HBO drama series Treme.

In 2013, Gurira played a lead role in director Andrew Dosunmu's independent drama film Mother of George, which premiered at 2013 Sundance Film Festival.[4] Gurira received critical acclaim for her performance as a Nigerian woman struggling to live in the United States.[21][22] In June 2013, Gurira won the Jean-Claude Gahd Dam award at the 2013 Guys Choice Awards.[23]

In January 2016, it was announced Gurira had been cast as Tupac Shakur's mother, Afeni Shakur, in All Eyez on Me, a biopic about the rap star.[24]

At the San Diego Comic-Con in July 2016, it was announced that Gurira had been cast in Marvel's Black Panther film, playing the role of Okoye, the head of the Dora Milaje, the personal body guards of the Black Panther.[25]

The Walking Dead[edit]

In March 2012, AMC announced on a live broadcast that Gurira would join the cast of their horror-drama series The Walking Dead, the highest rated series in cable television history,[26] in its third season.[27][28][29] Gurira plays Michonne, a mistrustful, katana-wielding character who joins a close-knit group in an apocalyptic world.[28][30] Together they are forced to relentlessly fight flesh-eating zombies and certain of the few surviving humans, some of whom are even more diabolical and dangerous than the zombies themselves.[30] Gurira had to learn how to ride horses for the show, which she enjoyed because it was a physical challenge.[31]


  • 2008: Appeared at the Global Green Sustainable Design Awards to read a letter written by a New Orleans native displaced by Hurricane Katrina.
  • 2011: Co-founded Almasi, an organization dedicated to continuing arts education in Zimbabwe.[3][32][33]
  • 2015: Gurira signed an open letter begun by the ONE Campaign. The letter was addressed to Angela Merkel and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, urging them to focus on women as they serve as the head of the G7 in Germany and the AU in South Africa respectively.[34]

Personal life[edit]

Gurira is a Christian.[2] She currently lives in Los Angeles,[35] and speaks four languages: French, Shona, basic Xhosa, and English.[2] She has taught playwriting and acting in Liberia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa.[2] She regularly spends time in New York City[36] and maintains an active lifestyle to keep physically fit.[37]



Year Title Role Notes
2007 The Visitor Zainab Method Fest Film Festival for Best Supporting Actress
Nominated – Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Cast
Nominated – Gotham Awards for Best Ensemble Cast
2008 Ghost Town Assorted ghost
2010 3 Backyards Woman in Blue Dress
2010 My Soul to Take Jeanne-Baptiste
2011 Restless City Sisi
2013 Mother of George Adenike Olumide Balogun Black Reel Award for Best Actress
Nominated – Black Reel Award for Best Breakthrough Performance
Nominated – American Black Film Festival – Best Actress
2015 Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast Fury Voice role
2016 All Eyez on Me Afeni Shakur [38][39]Post-production


Year Title Role Notes
2004 Law & Order: Criminal Intent Marei Rosa Rumbidzai Episode: "Inert Dwarf"
2009 Life on Mars (US) Angela Episode: "The Simple Secret of the Note in Us All"
2009 Law & Order Courtney Owens Episode: "Fed"
2010 American Experience Sarah Steward Episode: "Dolley Madison"
2010 Lie to Me Michelle Russo Episode: "Exposed"
2010–2011 Treme Jill 6 episodes
2012–present The Walking Dead Michonne Main Cast (Season 3–present)
Satellite Award for Best Cast – Television Series (2012)
Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress on Television (2016)
Nominated – NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (2016)[40]


Year Title Role Notes
2005 In the Continuum Abigail, et al. Also writer
Obie Award
Outer Critics Circle Award
Helen Hayes Award
John Gassner Award
2009 Joe Turner's Come and Gone Martha Pentecost
2009 Eclipsed Writer; New York premiere in the 2015-2016 season at The Public Theater[41] transferred to Broadway[42]
2011 Measure for Measure Isabella
2012 The Convert Writer[43]
Nominated – Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Writing[44]
2015 Familiar[12] Writer

Works or publications[edit]


  1. ^ "College of Engineering, Mathematics and Science: Chemistry Faculty and Staff: Roger Gurira Roger Gurira, Lecturer". University of Wisconsin-Platteville. Retrieved October 21, 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Donloe, Darlene (April 18, 2012). "The ‘Zamerican’ Danai Gurira Examines The Convert". LA Stage Times. Retrieved October 28, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c McIntyre, Gina (November 6, 2012). "Walking Dead: Danai Gurira Doubles as Michonne and a Playwright". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 6, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c d Smiley, Tavis (October 10, 2013). "Actress-playwright Danai Gurira" (Video interview; includes complete transcript). Tavis Smiley Show. Retrieved October 28, 2014. 
  5. ^ Mims, Sergio (March 3, 2012). "Danai Gurira: Actress and Playwright with Africa on Her Mind". Ebony. Retrieved October 27, 2014. 
  6. ^ "Playscript: The Convert". American Theatre (Theatre Communications Group) 30 (7): 70–71. September 2013. ISSN 8750-3255. OCLC 10594175. Retrieved October 27, 2014. The complete text of Danai Gurira's tumultuous journey into Zimbabwe's colonial history. Plus: a conversation with the playwright by Tim Sanford. 
  7. ^ a b "Danai Gurira – Playwriting Resume" (PDF). Danai Gurira. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 16, 2013. Retrieved October 27, 2014. 
  8. ^ "Danai Gurira Teams Up With Rooftop". Zimbo Jam. October 21, 2011. Archived from the original on September 13, 2013. Retrieved October 14, 2012. 
  9. ^ Kachka, Boris (May 3, 2009). "Into Africa: Danai Gurira". New York. Retrieved October 27, 2014. 
  10. ^ "Danai Gurira: 2012 Winner in Drama". Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation. Retrieved April 18, 2015. 
  11. ^ "In Yale Rep's world-premiere 'Familiar,' a family is thrown into flux". Yale News. Yale University. January 14, 2015. Retrieved April 18, 2015. 
  12. ^ a b "2014–2015 Season: Familiar". Yale Repertory Theatre. Retrieved 8 November 2014. 
  13. ^ Stasio, Marilyn (October 14, 2015). "Off Broadway Review: Lupita Nyong’o in ‘Eclipsed,’ From ‘Walking Dead’s’ Danai Gurira". Variety. Retrieved October 21, 2015. 
  14. ^ Jones, Nate (October 20, 2015). "Lupita Nyong’o and TWD’s Michonne Are Headed to Broadway". Vulture. Retrieved October 21, 2015. 
  15. ^ Guglielmi, Jodi (February 3, 2016). "Lupita Nyong'o Urges for a 'Diversity of Stories to Be Told' as Ryan Murphy Launches Foundation to Support Minorities in Filmmaking". People. Retrieved February 4, 2016. 
  16. ^ Gates, Anita (October 31, 2009). "In War-Torn Liberia, Women Making Do". The New York Times. Retrieved October 21, 2015. 
  17. ^ Ludden, Jennifer (September 8, 2009). "'Eclipsed' Brings Story Of Liberian Civil War To Stage". NPR. Retrieved October 21, 2015. 
  18. ^ Woodruff, Judy (February 18, 2016). "Brief But Spectacular: When Danai Gurira couldn’t find complex stories about African women, she wrote her own". PBS Newshour. Retrieved February 20, 2016. 
  19. ^ "2016 Nominees". Drama Desk Awards. Retrieved April 29, 2016. 
  20. ^ Desk, BWW News. "ECLIPSED's Clint Ramos Wins 2016 Tony Award for Best Costume Design - Play". Broadway World. Retrieved 18 June 2016. 
  21. ^ Bell, Nicholas (September 13, 2013). "Mother of George – Review". IonCinema. Retrieved October 28, 2014. 
  22. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (January 23, 2013). "Sundance: 'Lovelace' is a porn biopic that gets under your skin". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved October 28, 2014. 
  23. ^ "Jean-Claude Gahd Dam". Spike. Retrieved June 12, 2013. 
  24. ^ Carpenter, Nicole (January 11, 2016). "Walking Dead's Danai Gurira Cast as Tupac Shakur's Mother". IGN. Retrieved January 12, 2016. 
  25. ^ Couch, Aaron (July 23, 2016). "Black Panther Cast Details Revealed". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 24, 2016. 
  26. ^ Bibel, Sara (March 30, 2015). "'The Walking Dead' Season 5 Finale is Highest Rated Finale in Series History, Garnering 15.8 Million Viewers". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved March 30, 2015. 
  27. ^ Goldberg, Lesley (March 18, 2012). "'The Walking Dead' Casts Sword-Wielding Heroine Michonne". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved March 19, 2012. 
  28. ^ a b Ross, Dalton (May 23, 2012). "'The Walking Dead': Exclusive first look at Danai Gurira as fan favorite Michonne". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved October 27, 2014. 
  29. ^ Goldberg, Lesley (March 22, 2012). "'The Walking Dead's' Danai Gurira Excited to Embody Badass Michonne". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 27, 2014. 
  30. ^ a b "Michonne". AMC Networks. Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  31. ^ King, Susan (September 19, 2013). "'Walking Dead's' Danai Gurira aims to go deep in her varied roles". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 28, 2014. 
  32. ^ AP (January 26, 2014). "Gurira: Zim helped shape theatre passion". New Zimbabwe. Retrieved October 28, 2014. 
  33. ^ Gomez, Patrick (July 22, 2015). "The Heartwarming Reason The Walking Dead's Danai Gurira Is Offering Fans a Chance to Meet Her". People. Retrieved July 23, 2015. 
  34. ^ McVeigh, Tracy (March 7, 2015). "Poverty is sexist: leading women sign up for global equality". The Guardian. Retrieved May 8, 2015. 
  35. ^ Knorovsky, Katie (March 10, 2014). "African Storyteller: Walking Dead’s Danai Gurira". National Geographic Traveler. Retrieved October 27, 2014. 
  36. ^ US Weekly Staff. "Danai Gurira: 25 Things You Didn't Know About Me". Us Weekly. Retrieved November 8, 2014. 
  37. ^ Bried, Erin (February 17, 2015). "The Walking Dead's Danai Gurira Talks Staying Balanced and Strong". Self. Retrieved March 4, 2015. 
  38. ^ Fleming Jr, Mike (January 11, 2015). "‘Walking Dead’s Danai Gurira Set To Play Tupac’s Mom Afeni Shakur In ‘All Eyez On Me’". Deadline.com. Retrieved February 3, 2016. 
  39. ^ McNary, Dave (January 11, 2015). "‘Walking Dead’ Star Danai Gurira Joins Tupac Biopic". Variety. Retrieved February 3, 2016. 
  40. ^ Graham, Susie. "Danai Gurira and Corey Hawkins of The Walking Dead nominated for NAACP Image Awards". Undead Walking. Fansided. Retrieved January 17, 2016. 
  41. ^ http://publictheater.org/Global/Press/2015/Eclipsed_ReleaseFINAL.pdf
  42. ^ http://www.eclipsedbroadway.com/
  43. ^ Gray, Margaret (April 23, 2012). "Theater review: 'The Convert' at the Kirk Douglas Theatre". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 28, 2014. 
  44. ^ Maier, Marissa (January 25, 2013). "Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Nominees Announced (Full List)". Backstage. Retrieved October 28, 2014. 

External links[edit]