Danai Jekesai Gurira is a Zimbabwean-American actress and award-winning playwright. She is best known for her starring roles as Michonne on the AMC horror drama series The Walking Dead (2012–2020) and as Okoye in the Marvel Cinematic Universe superhero films Black Panther (2018), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), and Avengers: Endgame (2019).
Gurira was born on February 14, 1978 in Grinnell, Iowa. She attended high school at Dominican Convent High School. Afterward, she returned to the United States to study at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology. Gurira also earned a Master of Fine Arts in acting from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
As a playwright, her works include “In the Continuum”, “Eclipsed”, and “The Convert”. Her newest play, “Familiar”, received its world premiere at Yale Rep in 2015 and premiered in New York at Playwrights Horizons in February of 2016.
Gurira said that she began writing plays in an effort to better utilize her strengths as an actress, and to tell stories that convey ideas about strong women with whom she identifies.
She is a recipient of the Sam Norkin Award at the 2016 Drama Desk Awards, a Whiting Award, a Hodder Fellow, an Obie Award, an Outer Critics Circle Award, a Helen Hayes Award for Best Lead Actress, a Method Fest Independent Film Festival Award for Best Supporting Actress, a Jean-Claude Gahd Dam award, and has been commissioned by Yale Rep, Center Theatre Group, Playwrights Horizons, and the Royal Court. On December 2, 2018, Gurira was announced as a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador by UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka at the Global Citizen Festival in Johannesburg, South Africa. She also serves as an ambassador for Bono’s ONE campaign, as well as the founder of LOGpledge.org (Love Our Girls), an awareness-building campaign focused on the plights of women and girls around the globe; and the co-founder of Almasi Arts, which works to give access and opportunity to the African Dramatic Artist.
Gurira is a Christian and lives in Los Angeles, though she regularly spends time in New York City.