The Walking Dead star Danai Gurira is featured in the July/August 2018 issue of Women’s Health.
Not only is Danai Gurira a star on one of TV’s most popular shows, AMC’s The Walking Dead, but she’s also been busy portraying fearsome general Okoye in Marvel Studios’ Black Panther and the spring blockbuster Avengers: Infinity War. As if that weren’t enough, she’s the cofounder of a nonprofit, Almasi Arts, which supports and facilitates the dramatic arts in Zimbabwe, and she’s knee-deep in her next project, adapting Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s award-winning novel Americanah into a TV miniseries.
For such a busy woman, Danai is remarkably down to earth, and she knows that the only way she can tackle her overflowing to-do list is by staying mentally and physically fit. In person, the results of her effort are clear. The 40-year-old has a powerful—almost regal—presence and moves her body with the gracefulness of a dancer: head high, shoulders back. Her secret? A mix of eating well (tonight it’s salmon, brussels sprouts, and spinach), spiritual practice, listening to her body, and, of course, exercise.
Even though her workouts are meticulously planned and quite challenging, Danai loves simply being active. She grew up participating in sports and still hits the water whenever she can. “I don’t remember ever not being able to swim,” says Danai, who was motivated to start when she saw her older sister taking lessons. “I jumped in the water and was insistent on learning to swim with her.”
Danai’s workouts prepare her for her rigorous on-camera roles, yes, but there’s a real-life empowerment element to them too. “As women, we’re not always encouraged to find the fullest extent of our physical power,” she says. “There’s something so exciting about tapping into that part of ourselves.”
Danai, who has won numerous awards as a playwright and was nominated for a Tony Award in 2016, firmly believes in the power of storytelling—especially narratives that highlight the experiences of African women. The fact that she didn’t hear or see those stories while she was growing up is what inspired her to start writing. The global success of Black Panther has fulfilled her in many ways. “It kind of affirms that little African girl’s instinct that these stories would resonate if they were told with passion, integrity, and excellence.”
Though she’s accomplished so much, there’s still work to be done. And Danai has no plans to rest. As she tells young people she meets along the way, “There’s no app for skipping hard work; you have to seek your purpose and pursue it.” What keeps her fueled is “remembering the goals,” and making sure that when she’s finished living in this world, she’ll have given it her all.
The Walking Dead returns this October on AMC.
Photography: Ben Watts / Styling: Yashua Simmons / Hair: Vernon Scott / Makeup: Gregory Arlt / Manicure: Tracy Clemens