February 26, 2017


Future Black History Month: Danai Gurira Is Breaking Hollywood's Rules

John Sciulli/Getty Images for AMC
John Sciulli/Getty Images for AMC

Fuse is once again celebrating an extended Black History Month by highlighting a variety of rising forces who are creating Future Black History before our very eyes. Today we are honoring Danai Gurira, who is bringing in even more diversity to Hollywood that it desperately needs.

The Iowa native (who proudly has a Zimbabwean background) wears many impressive hats in the industry: actress on Broadway/TV/movies, playwright and activist. Gurira's breakout role was playing Zainab in 2007's The Visitor. She then moved on to act in movies like Ghost Town, My Soul to Take and Restless City before landing the role that made her a TV star—the katana-wielding Michonne in AMC's The Walking Dead.

She joined the hit horror series for its second season and remains one of its central stars to this day. Gurira has been recognized by the Saturn Awards and Satellite Awards for playing the intense but guarded character, but television isn't the only source of the actress' awards! She is also a brilliant Tony Award-nominated playwright who has won a handful of honors for In the Continuum, Eclipsed, The Convert and Familiar.

Gurira, a Tisch graduate from New York University, made theater history for her focus on Black women and their inner survivors. Her 2009 play Eclipsed (which Lupita Nyong'o starred in 2015) told the plight of three female sex slaves in war-torn Liberia. It became Broadway's first play to feature an all-black and all-female cast, director and writer. "I’m surprised the first is in 2016, but some people need precedent. I don’t need precedent, because I understand that there are things I have to do that might never have been done before," she reflected to Vogue. "But it’s an important thing for people to see that many, many people of color come to the theatre. These old models of who comes and what sells, they’re really archaic and obsolete."

While all of Gurira's onstage work reveals and nurtures the stories of black women, she shines light on their glory rather than typecasting them as minorities. "I never consider myself a minority. I see people who look like me in Barbados, in Trinidad, in Haiti, in London, and in Brooklyn," she told Harper's Bazaar last year. "So I don't know what the heck anyone means when they call me a 'minority.' There's something about that word to me. It just minimalizes people." The actress also extends the love for her culture and people off the stage, as she frequently rocks clothing created by African designers.

Along with kicking ass in The Walking Dead and dominating Broadway, Gurira is prepping to take over Hollywood. She is set to play Tupac's mother Afeni Shakur in this summer's All Eyez on Me biopic (out June 16) and Okoye in Marvel's anticipated Black Panther movie (out Feb. 16, 2018). The actress makes an impact both on and off the screen thanks to her activist work with organizations The ONE Campaign and Bring Back Our Girls, as well as bringing more awareness to the effects of HIV/AIDS on World AIDS Day. 

She also stresses how crucial it is for women to not just march, but run for government office and make our voices be heard loudly. "I want to thank our new president. I thank him for making it painfully clear that anyone can get into government," Gurira wrote in her Variety feature in regards to Trump. "It should boost our confidence that there truly are no barriers to entry." The actress continued:

"We can run for office and we can win—this has been proved time and time again. So we do not lament. We run. We don’t commiserate. We run. We don’t express fear and trepidation about the coming years. We run. We stand on the shoulders of the giants who paved the way. We are not back to zero. We are at the moment when we prove that we were built for such a time as this. We are at the moment when, to break through as women, as “others,” and as those who desire to progress, we must strategize to bring about a new government—a time when we show young girls that their voices do matter by making sure that our voices are in the rooms that matter." 

If she continues to tell her important stories, Gurira will always break down the walls of Hollywood and solidify her place in black history's future.

We're celebrating Future Black History all month long! Tune in to Fuse and come back to Fuse.tv every day for profiles, videos and more. Find Fuse in your area with our Channel Finder. Next, watch Gurira's The Walking Dead co-star Josh McDermitt discuss his work on the series with Fuse's White Guy Talk Show