Danai Jekesai Gurira (born February 14, 1978) is an American actress and playwright, best known for her role as Michonne on The Walking Dead, an AMC television horror drama series.
Gurira was born in Grinnell, Iowa to Josephine Gurira, a university librarian, and Roger Gurira, a chemistry professor at the University of Wisconsinâ"Platteville. Her parents came to the United States from Africa in the 1960s. She is the youngest of four siblings; Shingai (eldest) and Choni are her sisters and her brother Tare is a chiropractor. Gurira lived in Grinnell until December 1983, when at age five she and her family moved back to Harare, Zimbabwe after the country had gained independence.
After high school, Gurira returned to the United States to study at Macalester College, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology. She considers her experience of growing up in Zimbabwe and then returning to the United States to have had a major influence on her perspective. Gurira also earned a Master of Fine Arts in acting from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts.
Gurira has said that she began writing plays because she felt a need for "something to perform that actually kind of speaks to my strengths and speaks to women I know of and stories I think are important to tell". 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. In December 2011, In the Continuum commemorated World AIDS Day.
In 2009, Gurira debuted on Broadway in August Wilson's play Joe Turner's Come and Gone. Gurira received the Whiting Writers' Award in 2012. In January 2015, Familiar, a play written by Gurira and directed by Rebecca Taichman, opened at Yale Repertory Theatre. 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.
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. Gurira received critical acclaim for her performance as a Nigerian woman struggling to live in the United States.
In June 2013, Gurira won the Jean-Claude Gahd Dam award at the 2013 Guys Choice Awards.
The Walking Dead
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, in its third season. Gurira plays Michonne, a mistrustful, katana-wielding character who joins a close-knit group in an apocalyptic world. 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. Gurira had to learn how to ride horses for the show, which she enjoyed because it was a physical challenge.
Gurira is a Christian. She currently lives in Los Angeles, and speaks four languages: French, Shona, basic Xhosa, and English. She has taught playwriting and acting in Liberia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa.
In 2008, Gurira appeared at the Global Green Sustainable Design Awards to read a letter written by a New Orleans native displaced by Hurricane Katrina. In 2011, she co-founded Almasi, an organization dedicated to continuing arts education in Zimbabwe. Gurira is friends with actress Uzo Aduba, who is also an ambassador for Gurira's organization Almasi Arts Alliance.
Her favorite TV shows include Orange Is the New Black, House of Cards, Breaking Bad, and Modern Family. Musically, she enjoys Tasha Cobbs and Justin Timberlake.
Gurira regularly spends time in New York City, and considers it her city. She maintains an active lifestyle to keep physically fit.
In 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.
Works or publications
- Gurira, Danai. Running Head: The Neglect of Black Women in Psychology. 2001. Honors paper, Macalester College
- Gurira, Danai, and Nikkole Salter. In the continuum. New York, NY: Samuel French, 2008. ISBN 978-0-573-65089-5
- Gurira, Danai. Eclipsed. New York: Dramatists Play Service, 2010. ISBN 978-0-822-22446-4
- Gurira, Danai. The Convert. Washington, DCÂ : Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, 2013.
- Danai Gurira (official website)
- Danai Gurira at the Internet Movie Database
- Danai Gurira at the Internet Off-Broadway Database
- Danai Gurira at the Internet Broadway Database