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Danai Gurira on Playing Strong Women, From Michonne on ‘Walking Dead’ to Afeni Shakur in Upcoming Tupac Biopic

Gurira appears on this week’s episode of ESSENCE’s ‘Yes, Girl’ podcast.

It’s actually humanly impossible not to love Danai Gurira. The 39-year-old actress, playwright and philanthropist has had so many professional wins, but what’s astounding is her remarkable ability to shine a light on the untold stories of Black women.

She’s done it with her Tony Award-winning play Eclipsed, as co-founder of Almasi Arts, which provides arts education in Zimbabwe, and as the fearless Michonne on AMC’s The Walking Dead. Soon, she’ll be playing Afeni Shakur in the Tupac biopic All Eyez on Me (slated to come out this summer) and a bodyguard in Marvel’s Black Panther.

Her place in Hollywood is vital. But with a name that literally translates to “be in love or love one another” in Shona (one of Zimbabwe’s most widely-spoken languages), it was probably destined.

On this week’s episode of ESSENCE “Yes, Girl” podcast, editors and co-hosts Cori Murray, Yolanda Sangweni and Charli Penn spoke with Gurira about her hit TV show, upcoming film projects, activism and what she does when she’s not out here changing the world.

On playing strong women: “With those types of blessings come responsibility to not only encourage others but to set a good example with what I do with the work I’ve been given. [I have] to pursue excellence, because I understand that there’s so many talented Black women out there that don’t often get the opportunities that they could or should.”

On how many more African stories are in the works: “I wish there were three of me. I’d lock one of them away just to write because I have so many stories in me that I want to get out there but it requires putting a story out and becoming a worthy vessel of the one who births a narrative. It requires incubation… it’s making sure the African female’s voice is front and center.”

On the first thing she does every morning: “My brain floods with thoughts far too quickly. I try to spend some time spiritually but then sometimes, I just don’t. I’m like, ‘Dude, do it every morning, you know you have a better day if you just do it.’ But then I just jump out of bed—it’s really funny—like the speed of light… But generally I like to spend time in mediation and prayer, because then I can actually center and remember what’s important.”

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