‘Black Panther’ Star Danai Gurira Praises Marvel Studios for Progressive Storytelling

Black Panther star Danai Gurira has praised producers Marvel Studios for its progressive storytelling and says the appreciation and success of the Ryan Coogler-directed blockbuster has been “deeply nourishing.”

“And more so than we could have been anticipated or expected. We definitely put all our heart and soul into it. We were seeking the most authentic, the most truthful, the most alive, the most connected version of the story we could all tell. And the beauty was that was a collective perspective,” Gurira told the Los Angeles Times.

“It was deeply rooted in Ryan, but it wasn’t just Ryan. It was all of us. He put around him an amazing team that enhanced that core that he brought. We were able to work as a great unit. And Marvel was great in embracing that we were coming in with this whole other perspective and deep desire to say many things in an African language.

“They allowed us to feel like collaborators, as, of course, did Ryan. So as a result, we all feel a collective ownership, which is really special.”

Set mostly in the fictional African kingdom of Wakanda, the most technologically-advanced nation on Earth, and led by a predominantly black cast, Black Panther won more than $1.3 billion at the worldwide box office in 2018 to emerge as the highest-grossing domestic earner of the year with $700 million — just the third film in history to pass the milestone.

The film has since earned a SAG nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture, which Gurira remarked is “beautiful.”

“It’s really cool,” Gurira said. “I just saw that list of all of us and I was like, ‘That’s really beautiful.’”

Asked if there was ever a depiction of Africa in movies that was as “positive and progressive” as the one seen in Black Panther, Gurira answered, “I don’t think so. I really don’t think so.”

“That’s what drove me to start writing. Like, ‘This cannot be the way my people are portrayed in a cinematic form.’ For me, it was theater at the time — that’s my medium,” said Gurira, an accomplished playwright who has since launched acclaimed play The Convert, headlined by Black Panther co-star Letitia Wright.

“It was really that dearth. Every time I saw a film — and not all — there were many interpretations of the continent I found really disturbing and limited and from a perspective that wasn’t ours. To all the ways in which Black Panther counters that just by telling an excellent story excellently was deeply heartening. And I think it was a first.”

On Black Panther helping increase on-screen representation in Hollywood, the Okoye actress said “one can hope this is about climate and not weather. That’s what I keep saying.”

“It’s about a shift that’s happening because that’s how it should be. There has been an openness that has prevailed around these types of stories being told, absolutely,” Gurira added.

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“We’ve seen some higher ups in this industry speak really powerfully around how you do what makes sense, and that means you tell a variety of stories from a variety of perspectives and you tell them with authenticity.”

Gurira is expected to return as the fierce Wakandan warrior in Avengers: Endgame, out April 26. Coogler was confirmed in October to return as writer-director for Black Panther 2, yet to be dated by Marvel Studios.