How Black Panther: Wakanda Forever's Danai Gurira Prepared For Grief And A 'Drastic' Change For Okoye

SPOILER ALERT: The following article contains key spoilers for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. If you have not yet seen the film, proceed at your own risk!

In Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Okoye takes one emotional punch to the gut after another. The film begins with the death of King T’Challa – the man she is sworn to protect and keep safe at all costs – and while on duty to protect Princess Shuri on an overseas mission in the aftermath, she is once again devastated when the young royal is kidnapped. And as though circumstances aren’t bad enough, she then becomes the target of Queen Ramonda’s fury, and is stripped of her role as commander of the Dora Milaje.

It’s all heavy material for the character’s arc in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it was a product of a close partnership between Danai Gurira and writer/director Ryan Coogler.

Prior to the theatrical release of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever last month, I had the opportunity to discuss Okoye’s journey in the film with Gurira during the Marvel blockbuster’s Los Angeles press day. I asked about her work with Ryan Coogler in carving out the character’s path in the latest chapter of her story. Dancing around spoilers, she explained,

There were lots of conversations around her arc and how we get it there and the journey that she's on. We knew there was gonna be quite a drastic thing that would happen to her in this film, and you know, what that was really about, what was underneath that? You know, very much her position... 'cause there's a lot of elements of where grief is and how it's hitting different members of this ensemble in different ways. So where exactly does it hit her and how is she handling it?

As previously established in Black Panther and the last two Avengers movies, Okoye is passionate about her responsibilities in the world of Wakanda, and it’s a devastating blow to her in the new film when Queen Ramonda takes away her role within the Dora Milaje. (It’s one of the most incredible scenes in the movie, and one that came from terrific collaboration between Danai Gurira and Angela Bassett.)

Continuing, Gurira highlighted her character’s personal need for control, and noted that part of her process was properly determining what events would drive her to do:

She's a very in control type of person, and likes to be that way. Obviously she's handling the protection of the nation. So it's really understanding how that translates into what she ends up doing – 'cause she's a doer – to feel that control maintained. But is she taking care of herself?

Those who have seen the film know that Okoye doesn’t just sit on the sidelines after losing her ranked position. While it’s unclear what her exact status with the Dora Milaje is at the end of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, she notably suits up for a super powered role in the blockbuster’s third act battle – wearing the Midnight Angel armor from the comics.

And it wasn’t all just broad strokes either. Danai Gurira noted that she worked closely with Ryan Coogler on every line of dialogue making Black Panther: Wakanda Forever – taking full control of her franchise role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. She added,

All those things were very much discussed all the time, and just the tiny elements of what she would say, what she wouldn't say, all those little things about what comes out of her mouth was always something we explored very, very, very, very thoroughly.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever premiered over a month ago, but it continues to be the top movie at the box office and is still playing in theaters everywhere. For more reading about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, check out our Upcoming Marvel Movies and Upcoming Marvel TV guides to learn about everything that’s on the way from the franchise. You can also discover where the latest MCU title fits into the canon with our Marvel Movies In Order feature.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.