Back in June of last year, I got a chance to visit the set of Avengers: Infinity War at Atlanta’s Pinewood Studios. This is the fourth part in a series of articles from that trip. You can also read the previous interviews with Chadwick Boseman and Mark Ruffalo, Anthony and Joe Russo, and Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson.
One of the stand-out characters to come out of Marvel Studios’ Black Panther was Danai Gurira who played Okoye, the general of the Dora Milaje and head of Wakanda’s armed forces and intel. As the stage was set for Wakanda to take a greater role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Okoye’s presence took on even greater meaning. We sat down with Gurira to talk about her character’s perspective on the changes coming for her homeland. Here’s what we learned:
“[Okoye] is a deep traditionalist, and Wakanda is a very traditional place,” Gurira said. “It has
been really protected through trades and traditions and rituals and structures that were created by
the forefathers a thousand years ago. For her, it’s something that really weighs on her shoulders,
to make sure that this nation is maintained in its secrecy. Also, to retain their status as the most
advanced nation in the world.”
But Gurira went on to detail that just because Wakanda separates itself from the world doesn’t mean it hasn’t been aware of what has been going on.
“[The people of Wakanda] know what’s been happening across the world. The changes that they go through, to the point where they are opening up their borders and they are letting people know who they are, is something that she really has to journey through. There are other characters who are more ready to do it. She’s not ready.”
With the Avengers arriving in Wakanda, as we got a glimpse of in last week’s trailer, a new internal struggle is arising. As Gurira explains, her character is torn between jumping into the battle with full force, or listening to her gut feeling to protect Wakanda.
“Okoye hasn’t been excited about outsiders. You’ll see that in a very clear way in the movie. Outsiders, they threaten what they’ve … built up, but that’s the big question: Do we isolate or do we open up? … She’s more cautious. She’s always thinking about how many things can go wrong and how much she can control, but there’s not a lot of control that she can have over something that’s coming that’s this massive. That’s where her concerns lie. It’s in her gut. This is one of the biggest threats they’ve dealt with.”
Gurira continued, mentioning her characters connection with T’Challa aka Black Panther:
“The fight’s coming to them, but she’s the type of person who will go where she needs to go, especially considering the fact that she’s also very deeply connected to what her king (T’Challa) decides. She definitely lets him know her thoughts, but she goes by his decisions.”
And while Okoye may be hesitant to welcome outsiders, Danai herself could not be more thrilled to be a part of this amazing universe, especially with so many strong female characters.
“It was really exciting for me to encounter all of [the other characters]. It was interesting to see this whole mashup happen, and then be a part of it. I’m excited for all the connection she can, and might, make through what she’s about to go through with these warriors and these Avengers, these superheroes.”
Gurira is clearly very inspired by the whole experience and went on to say,
“It’s really thrilling. I’m insanely thankful to be alive at the moment I am alive, and I don’t take it for granted that so many women before me have had to navigate and push for more representation and I get to benefit from the fruits of their labor. I really think it is real thrilling. Even in the times I’ve been acting, I’ve seen that evolution before I started acting to now. You can feel that shift, and it is a really exciting thing when you see there is a lot of attention paid to the position and the contribution to the female characters. You get to be a part of that, so it’s really thrilling.”
After seeing her in action in Black Panther, I think we are all thrilled to be able to see more of Okoye and the Dora Milaje when Avengers: Infinity War hits theaters April 27. Check back in on Wednesday for more from the set of Infinity War!