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Danai Gurira’s second act in Hollywood is as equally impressive as her first.
The Black Panther and (soon to be former) The Walking Dead actress as well as playwright has signed a two-year overall deal with ABC Studios. Under the pact, she will create, develop, write and produce new projects for all the Disney-owned studio’s multiple platforms (as well as possibly for outside suppliers). The deal does not have a talent component, but considering she’s already in the Disney family from her starring role in Marvel’s Black Panther, it remains a possibility.
The news comes as the Tony-nominated Gurira (Eclipsed) is currently serving as showrunner and exec producer on Americanah, a miniseries she adapted from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s best-selling novel that earned a straight-to-series 10-episode order at WarnerMedia’s forthcoming streaming service, HBO Max. The drama, which tells the story of a woman (Lupita Nyong’o) born in Nigeria who leaves for America and her extraordinary experiences with love, heartache, adversity and self-discovery.
“From Zimbabwe to Wakanda to Broadway, there is no one like Danai Gurira,” ABC Studios president Jonnie Davis said with a nod to Gurira’s role in Marvel’s Black Panther. “The scope of her talents and the breadth of her abilities are simply astonishing. We are over the moon that she has chosen to make ABC Studios her exclusive home.”
Since Gurira joined AMC’s The Walking Dead in 2012, the actress — who has a Master of Fine Arts from NYU — has used the top-rated series as a launchpad. She has continued her work as a playwright, co-writing (and co-starring in) an off-Broadway production of In the Continuum and winning an Obie Award and Outer Critics Circle Award. She made her Broadway debut in 2009 in August Wilson’s Joe Turner’s Come and Gone. Gurira’s 2012 play, The Convert — which ended its London run starring her Black Panther co-star Letitia Wright — earned her a Whiting Award for emerging playwright. In 2016, her Black Panther co-star Nyong’o starred in Eclipsed, which Gurira wrote. That play, the first to premiere on Broadway with an all-female and all-black cast and creative team, earned Gurira a Tony nomination for best play. She also reprised her Black Panther role as Okoye in Avengers: Infinity War and in Avengers: Endgame.
“I am thrilled to work with Jonnie and his stellar team at ABC Studios,” Gurira said. “Their commitment to the feminine perspective aligns with my goals as a storyteller. I am excited to amplify unheard voices and bring to light narratives that will tackle universal themes while they simultaneously break barriers and bring new faces, voices and influences to the screen.”
Gurira’s deal arrives as ABC Studios — part of the larger Disney Television Studios that also includes 20th Century Fox Television and Fox 21 — is making a noted shift in strategy. Rather than focusing on broadcast first, Disney TV Studios is making it a priority to create and develop scripted fare for its internal platforms, including Disney+, Hulu, FX, Freeform, National Geographic and, yes, ABC. Speaking of the latter, the broadcaster has, under entertainment president Karey Burke, prioritized scripted fare focusing on women as the exec looks to see her network regain its footing in the space.
Gurira is repped by UTA, Suskin Management and Jackoway Tyerman.
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