'Black Panther' star Danai Gurira: 'This film is a movement'

Marvel's "Black Panther" roars its way to the big screen this Friday, but it's already proving to be a pop culture powerhouse. The film is "Certified Fresh" after debuting on Rotten Tomatoes with a perfect rating. Fandango reports that advanced ticket sales have outpaced any previous superhero movie, and it's now on track to be the biggest February opening ever.

Danai Gurira, who plays the proud general, Okoye, from the fictional "Black Panther" nation of Wakanda, visited BUILD Series this week to give eager fans a hint at what they can expect from this groundbreaking blockbuster.

Audiences will no doubt recognize the Zimbabwean American actress as Michonne from AMC's "The Walking Dead," but they may be surprised to learn that she's also a Tony-nominated playwright. Her play "Eclipsed," featuring fellow "Black Panther" star Lupita Nyong'o, made its Broadway debut in 2016. Now, she's trading in her pen, and Michonne's iconic samurai sword, for a different weapon: the spear. "It's African weaponry made of some very special stuff, which we can't go into," she teased. "Okoye is second only to the Panther in being the best fighter in Wakanda."

As a playwright, Gurira often explores the lives of African characters on stage, and "Black Panther" provided a unique opportunity to advance this personal mission. "It's an African story on a Marvel and Disney scale, and that's kind of a dream come true for me."

Following her meeting with director Ryan Coogler, Gurira knew she had to be a part of this film:

"For me, it's very important as a storyteller, and as an African woman, that the stories told about Africa are told with great authenticity and accessibility, but also that they're very rich and complex, because that's the world I know of the continent. The vision he had for my character, the vision he had for the use of sound and music, the vision he had for the use of language; there were so many thing that were rich and powerful to me."

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Danai Gurira at BUILD Series
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Danai Gurira at BUILD Series
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 12: Danai Gurira attends Build series to discuss 'Black Panther' at Build Studio on February 12, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Chance Yeh/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 12: Danai Gurira attends Build series to discuss 'Black Panther' at Build Studio on February 12, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Chance Yeh/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 12: Danai Gurira visits the Build Series at Build Studio on February 12, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Manny Carabel/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 12: Danai Gurira attends Build series to discuss 'Black Panther' at Build Studio on February 12, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Chance Yeh/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 12: Danai Gurira visits the Build Series at Build Studio on February 12, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Manny Carabel/WireImage)
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To Gurira and her castmates, the film feels part of a bigger movement. "We've been in a world where the thrust of what we see in terms of superheroes, or in terms of this type of epic imagery, comes from one perspective." There have been black heroes on screen before, but it seems appropriate that Black Panther, who was the first black superhero in comic book history, would be creating such a stir. "I've talked to people of many ethnicities who feel the excitement and exuberance around this, and the expression it gives them about how they can celebrate themselves."

When asked about the forthcoming "Avengers" sequel, the tight-lipped Gurira could only confirm that she will appear. "I'm very good at saying nothing," she joked of her spoiler-free answer. "I've been on 'The Walking Dead' for 8 years now, I know how to say nothing."

Fans will have to wait until May to find out what "Avengers: Infinity War" has in store, but Gurira is excited for them to experience "Black Panther" now:

"You just know this is bigger than all of us," she said with pride. "This is something people have been yearning for, something that allows people to break out and celebrate things that have been marginalized for no apparent reason. The world is ready to discard that and put on a new garb!"

"Black Panther" hits theaters Friday.

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