The actress reflects on the social impact of the Marvel superhero film and the pressure the cast felt to get the film right.
Marvel’s Black Panther is a certified juggernaut -- ranking in the No. 1 position at the box office for five weeks, becoming the No. 3 highest grossing film of all time, and raking in over $1 billion worldwide -- and like any true cultural phenomenon, it has spawned countless GIFs, memes and reenactments on social media. ET sat down with the film's star Danai Gurira -- one of the film's most GIFable characters -- to talk about her favorite social moments.
“I’ve loved seeing people reenact scenes,” Gurira told ET of the creative ways fans have celebrated the Marvel film. “I’ve loved the M’Baku challenge. This very young boy enacted the entire scene, flipping back between Winston [Duke, who plays M’Baku] and Forest [Whitaker, who plays Zuri].”
“Seeing young kids really absorb and be able to reenact flawlessly the very cadences of what they watched has been really fun,” she continued.
Since Gurira was already star of the hit AMC series The Walking Dead, she’s used to intense fan reactions, but the unique experience around Black Panther has not been lost on her. In fact, she tells us that she could never have dreamt of receiving the type of gratitude she and the cast have been given by fans for making the movie. “It just makes us have more gratitude,” she explained.
“[The response to the film] was just nothing you could ever dream of or imagine happening,” Gurira gushed. “The response that there’s been from people -- of how they embrace [the film] and how they embrace us wherever we go -- and the really beautiful thing is the way people thank us for it.”
As for where she ranks the experience of Black Panther as a milestone in her career, she told us, “It’s not even in the dream category; it’s past that. I didn’t even dream of this happening. It’s just something you couldn’t even imagine. So it’s really beautiful.”
In fact, Gurira was not only unprepared for the impact the film would have on fans, she wasn't prepared for what she was going to see on screen, as none of the cast had seen the finished film prior to the world premiere, save for one special member of the crew.
“None of us had seen the movie except for Chadwick [Boseman, who plays T’Challa/Black Panther],” Gurira revealed to ET’s Kevin Frazier about the pressure to deliver for the fans. “So the nerves were a lot higher than tonight [at the world premiere of Avengers: Infinity War], because tonight is an astounding ensemble -- like, 25 other people. It’s an epic story. The other one was Wakanda – so we were presenting this new world and so the nerves were higher.”
Marvel Studios has expressed support for a potential Black Panther 2, but there are many elements up in the air -- when the film would happen, who would be involved and what it would be about -- especially after the cliffhanger ending of Avengers: Infinity War. When we asked Gurira about the future she sees for Okoye, she simply laughed. Take that as you will.
Black Panther is available on digital platforms now and on Blu-ray and 4K on May 15.
For more on Gurira's experience in the MCU, watch the video below.
'Black Panther' Star Danai Gurira Shares Wild Story About What Happened to Her After Film's Debut (Exclusive)
EXCLUSIVE: Danai Gurira on Significance of 'Black Panther' and Giving 'Voice to the African Story'