Danai Gurira says an Olympic swimming coach helped her prepare for Black Panther sequel

Francis Akhalbey November 16, 2022
Danai Gurira reprised her role in "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" -- Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

Danai Gurira definitely takes her job seriously and leaves no stone unturned when she’s preparing for a movie. In a recent interview with The Cut, the Zimbabwean-American actress revealed that she hired an Olympic swimming coach to train her for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever after she was informed that a handful of the scenes for the Marvel sequel will be ocean-set.

The 44-year-old, who is said to be a good swimmer, revealed she wanted to polish her swimming prowess for the box-office hit movie. “I was like, ‘teach me everything,’” Gurira, who plays Okoye, said in the Monday-published interview. “It wasn’t really necessary to go in like that, but I went all in. It was really fun to really work at improving my stroke and to see improvement and transformation in my technique and in my speed.”

“I sent a little video to [the movie’s director Ryan Coogler], and he was in shock,” she revealed. “He was like, ‘What the hell?’”

And besides wanting to improve her swimming talents in preparation for the sequel, Gurira said she decided to take up that initiative because she wants to look into “this aspect of the fact that there’s an issue with Black kids and swimming.”

“I saw the stat that a Black child is five times more likely to drown than a white child, and that got me. I just got more interested in trying to bring awareness to it, and I’ll be looking into that more,” she added. “There’s a lot that goes into the fact that we as Black folks don’t often get that skill, but it is a very important skill and people lose their lives around it when they don’t have to.”

“I tried to help a couple of my friends learn to swim — grown-ass women like me,” the 44-year-old said, adding that there is “sometimes a panic around water.”

“It takes effort. For a lot of people, if their family doesn’t do it, they end up not doing it,” Gurira continued. “It’s a whole thing. That stat really hit me hard.”

Besides Gurira, other Wakanda Forever stars also took swimming lessons to prepare for the sequel. Prior to the shooting of the movie, Coogler could not swim. But in an interview with Variety, the 36-year-old director said that he eventually took swimming lessons in an effort to be close to his cast while on set. 

“A lot of us were raised to have fear of water,” he said. “I had to figure out how to swim so I could direct this movie.”

Coogler also revealed that there are “a lot of Black and Mesoamerican folks in water in this movie.” He noted that he was “excited for people to see” what Angela Bassett and Letitia Wright “did in the water.” 

“I was just impressed by how much stunt work they all did, how everybody showed up ready to go, ready to learn how to free dive,” he said. 

And leading up to the movie shoot, Bassett and fellow cast member Lupita Nyong’o also told Variety that they were not swimming experts. 

“You know, Black girls have this history with water and their hair,” Bassett said. “Some of us can’t swim all that well, because it’s going to mess up that press and curl. It’s a whole thing.”

“Before we started this film, I knew how to swim, but I wasn’t a confident swimmer,” Nyong’o revealed. “I didn’t need to swim in public, that’s for sure. That’s a lifelong skill that I now have.”

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: November 16, 2022


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