The women in Marvel’s Black Panther are fierce, beautiful, intelligent, nurturing (basically everything a woman is). While we normally don’t see a woman encompass all of those qualities (they are basically one or the other), Black Panther’s Director, Ryan Coogler, made it a point to have multiple female characters be all of those things and it was inspiring. Two of those characters were played by Lupita Nyong’o (“Nakia”) & Danai Gurira (“Okoye”) and after seeing them bring their characters to life on screen, I could not wait to chat with them about it.
Having already interviewed Lupita Nyong’o for her roles in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Jungle Book, I knew that she was strong, intelligent and soft spoken but I didn’t know what to expect from Danai Gurira. As I listened to Danai speak, I knew she was smart, fierce and that she was passionate about life and her work (basically her character). It was a great interview!
Here is what Lupita Nyong’o & Danai Gurira had to say…
Bringing their characters to life
“Well I think for both of us, especially when we’re dealing with African representation in story, we feel such a strong sense of responsibility and deep desire to see African women on screen that look and feel like we know them to be. And so with these characters we wanted them to be women that we know and like the women that I know are complex and they’re deep and they’re about something other than just the man in their lives and so I think that was really important to us.” – Lupita Nyong’o
Importance of having independent, smart and strong characters in this movie
“It was also really important to Ryan as well to have women who are standing in their own in this movie because women with agency and strength does not mean an absence of vulnerability but it means that you understand, you have it in yourself to get yourself through things, to seek help. What I mean that is strength in itself is a very complex idea and so it was important to us that the women however, whoever and however many lines you have that you come across as being full…”
“I command Ryan for this because in the end his story is not about punchlines and clips and things to make it fun and enjoyable and yet it’s still fun and enjoyable but there’s an integrity to these people. We really get a sense of what Wakanda’s society is like and we see a society where men and women are participating fully in the development of the nation and in so doing they’re reaching their full potential and that’s good for everybody.” – Lupita Nyong’o
Each character’s fighting style being different
“…these women are different and their fighting styles are very different. Mine is very traditional. Hers (Referring to Lupita’s character, Nakia) is get the job done…and so my character’s gonna pull out her spear and she’s gonna do forms that have been in Wakandan tradition for generations in this particular place and she’s just gonna take them down and smack them down…” – Danai Gurira
Their training helping them get into character
“The training was a big part of getting into character because understanding how someone fights reveals a lot about what their values are and who they are and so when we were first talking about Nakia’s fighting style Ryan said to me “she’s street” and that was really all I needed. So, by any means necessary she will use any weapon…She will grab whatever it takes to get the job done…” – Lupita Nyong’o
She went on to say…
“We occupy our own space and then going into battle together everyone has a different strength to bring to the table and I think that was just a way to make fighting extremely rich and full of culture in and of itself. It’s very specific.”
On Danai Gurira’s shaving her head for her role
“…I think the beauty is such a celebration and I think that that’s what’s so powerful to me about it because I don’t think you often don’t see Africanisms celebrated and so I think that completely connects with the hair. I love what the hair department and the costume department did. They really pulled from real actual cultures and ethnic differentiations and how hair is celebrated across the continent traditionally and currently. I think there is something really powerful about all the ways that hair was represented there because I think there are so many things that tell us, the thing that tells those of African descent or people who get categorized as the other that there’s one way that they should actually manifest themselves in society in order to be accepted or acceptable…I love that there are so many manifestations of that sort of expression, Nakia’s got her little knots and then she’s got a fro, and then and Okoye loves her bald head and she doesn’t like to wear wigs…” – Danai Gurira
Want to know more about Black Panther and its characters? Click on the links below to read my exclusive interviews with:
- Forest Whitaker
- Daniel Kaluuya & Letitia Wright
- Andy Serkis and Winston Duke
- Black Panther Costume Designer Ruth E. Carter & Production Designer Hannah Beachler
You should also check out my Black Panther World Premiere Recap, the Black Panther Press Conference Highlights and Fun Facts from the Cast. Oh and my Black Panther Inspired Gift Guide for some really cool products you can collect, enjoy or give as gifts.
You are going to want to go and see Black Panther when it hits theaters on 2/16!
Want to know my thoughts on the movie? Click here to read my spoiler-free Black Panther Movie Review. Long Live The King!