Danai Gurira Hired an Olympic Swimming Coach to Train for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Danai Gurira attends Marvel Studios' "Black Panther 2: Wakanda Forever" Premiere at Dolby Theatre on October 26, 2022 in Hollywood, California.
Danai Gurira attends Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther 2: Wakanda Forever” Premiere at Dolby Theatre on October 26, 2022 in Hollywood, California.

Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

Danai Gurira put in the work when she learned that Black Panther: Wakanda Forever would feature a significant amount of ocean-set scenes.

In a new interview with The Cut published Monday, Gurira, who plays Dora Milaje general Okoye in the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, revealed that she hired an Olympic-level swimming coach to help sharpen her already-strong swimming skills for the Black Panther sequel.

“I was like, ‘teach me everything,’ ” 44-year-old Gurira, who said she swam competitively growing up, told the outlet about hiring a swimming instructor. “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 added during the interview. “He was like, ‘What the hell?’ “

Gurira told The Cut she was interested in “this aspect of the fact that there’s an issue with Black kids and swimming” — beyond extending her own swimming abilities for the new movie.

“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 told the outlet. “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.”

Danai Gurira at the world premiere of Marvel Studios Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Danai Gurira at the world premiere of Marvel Studios Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Gilbert Flores/Variety via Getty Images

“I tried to help a couple of my friends learn to swim — grown-ass women like me,” Gurira said, noting 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,” she added. “It’s a whole thing. That stat really hit me hard.”

Gurira is not the only Wakanda Forever star who received extra swimming guidance.

Director Coogler told Variety he decided he needed to be on the same page as his cast, many of whom had to learn to free dive and trained with free diving instructors and aquatic stunt teams.

“A lot of us were raised to have fear of water,” the director, 36, told Variety. “I had to figure out how to swim so I could direct this movie.”

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Courtesy Marvel Studios

“It’s a lot of Black and Mesoamerican folks in water in this movie,” Coogler told the outlet, adding in particular that he is “excited for people to see what” Wakanda Forever costars Angela Bassett and Letitia Wright “did in the water” for the new movie.

Cast members Bassett and Lupita Nyong’o also expressed to Variety that they were not particularly skilled swimmers before the shoot either.

“You know, Black girls have this history with water and their hair,” Bassett told the outlet. “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, 39, added. “I didn’t need to swim in public, that’s for sure. That’s a lifelong skill that I now have.”

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is in theaters now.

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