Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’s Danai Gurira on Okoye’s Path in the Film

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’s Danai Gurira on Okoye’s Path in the Film

Returning to Wakanda has been a long-anticipated moment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Now with the release of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the cast and creative team are celebrating a culmination of sharing their labour of love in response to the absence of Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman, who passed away from colon cancer in 2020.

io9 sat down with Danai Gurira to discuss the film and where we find the heroes of Wakanda as they rise up to the seemingly insurmountable task to move their people forward through the loss of their king, T’Challa. Coming back to the world of Black Panther meant everything to Gurira. “We didn’t know what we were about to navigate, to step into this world again without him. And that was definitely a feeling of stepping back in.” she said of the emotional journey taken as a company to pay respects to Boseman’s legacy. “But the beauty of seeing those familiar faces, from costume designers and set designers to production designers, to cast to crew to Ryan [Coogler, director] to Nate [Moore, producer], you know, seeing all those people that are experiencing the same thing. But we’re like, ‘we’re doing this’ — that was anchoring, because he was an anchor. And then we found that anchor in each other and in the knowledge and the hope and the prayer that it was going to honour him.”

Gurira revealed it was a process that mirrored Okoye’s journey. As the mighty Dora Milaje warrior, she found herself coping with the film’s very real themes of loss. “I felt I felt a lot of parallel feelings with her because she’s trying to take care of everybody. She’s trying to focus, her nation needs her for stability, but has she gone through her grief? I think she’s trying to help folks get to the other side of things [by] coming up with ideas. But is it the best idea? Has she anchored what her choices are in her own process?”

In the film Okoye’s leadership is challenged by new threats and we get to see a different side of the character in the face of some difficult challenges. “I was very thankful to get to explore her that way. You don’t always get to really allow a character to go into another place,” she said. “They’re not just one thing, but also just knowing where she holds her esteem and where she holds her identity, and then what happens when that’s disoriented? It made a lot of sense to me. She took so much pride, and she takes a lot of pride, in what and who she is and what she does for her nation. So the disorientation aspect … that process to me made a lot of sense. But so many of the emotions that we were experiencing, a loss and a need to find it, to hold on to something, and they start to lose things again and it’s like, ‘But I need this. Don’t leave me.’ That, I found, was an organic connection for her.”

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever opens November 10.

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