‘Black Panther’ Star Danai Gurira On Film’s Oscar Buzz, Coming Up With ‘Funny’ Sequel Ideas

Black Panther

Danai Gurira insists that the cast and crew of “Black Panther” were not thinking about Oscar buzz while they were making the Ryan Coogler-directed film.

“My mind did not quite get there,” Gurira tells Variety while promoting her World AIDS Day work with Johnson & Johnson (more on that in a second). “We did know that there definitely was a hunger for this type of story. We had it. Growing up you want to see superheroes who look like yourself. That’s the whole point. As a kid you want to see something or someone who looks like you.

“We understood there was a responsibility upon us to tell this story and to celebrate the fact it was actually happening,” said Gurira, who kicked ass in the Marvel blockbuster as Okoye.

As for the upcoming sequel, Gurira says she has no details to share but did reveal that she and co-star Letita Wright have an idea for the second film — kinda.

“We had one funny idea, but we were just joking,” she said. “It was really funny and Ryan thought it was hilarious.”

Gurira politely declined to elaborate. “I don’t know if I can. I have to check first,” she said, laughing. “Let me investigate and get back to you.”

On a more serious note, Gurira has teamed up with Johnson & Johnson on the company’s “Make HIV History” initiative to promote the eradication of HIV/AIDS.

“I was raised in southern Africa in Zimbabwe in the ‘80s and ‘90s so I really witnessed the way HIV and AIDS effected the very tapestry of life and our communities and families,” Gurira said. “It’s definitely very dire for African women and has been and often they are the ones least heard.”

One of Gurira’s first plays she wrote (she’s a celebrated playwright in addition to being an actress) was “In the Continuum,” about two women facing their HIV diagnosis.

“What’s factual is that this is something that we have not eradicated,” she said. “Even right now, we have the highest rate of infections since 1993. That’s something we need to be very aware of. We must really reengage this issue. We have to focus on eradication and we haven’t gotten there.”

Gurira remains hopeful that she will see this eradication in her lifetime. “I believe we can get there,” she said. “It’s encouraging to me to see vaccine trials. It’s been done before with other epidemics throughout history.”

Gurira is encouraging people to post Johnson & Johnson #makeHIVhistory GIFs on their social media feeds for Wolds AIDS Day, Dec. 1. The GIFs can be found by typing #makeHIVhistory into the GIF search on Instagram Stories.