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‘Black Panther’ Star Danai Gurira Trained with Olympic Swimming Coach for ‘Wakanda Forever’

"I sent a little video to Ryan [Coogler], and he was in shock. He was like, 'What the hell?'"

Danai Gurira as Okoye in Marvel Studios' Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”

Marvel Studios

Danai Gurira took her “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” prep seriously.

Gurira, who returns as General Okoye for the MCU film, trained with an Olympic swimming coach for the water sequences in the superhero movie. “Wakanda Forever” includes a trip to the underwater empire Talokan, led by Namor (Tenoch Huerta Mejia), and multiple underwater fight scenes.

“As I’m sure you’ve seen in the previews, there’s a little bit of water in this movie,” Gurira said in a The Cut cover story. “So when I heard that, I hadn’t read the script, but I went and found this Olympic-trainer swimming coach. I was like, ‘Teach me everything.'”

Gurira continued, “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 [director] Ryan [Coogler], and he was in shock. He was like, ‘What the hell?'”

Gurira, who used to swim competitively as a child, addressed the racial stereotype around swimming.

“I’m getting into this aspect of the fact that there’s an issue with Black kids and swimming. I saw the stat that a Black child is five times more likely to drown than a white child, and that got me,” the “Walking Dead” star said. “I just got more interested in trying to bring awareness to it, and I’ll be looking into that more. 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.”

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

Director Coogler previously told Variety that he learned how to swim to direct “Wakanda Forever.”

“A lot of us were raised to have fear of water,” Coogler said. “If the camera’s in the water, actors are in the water, I’ve got to be in there too. I had to figure out how to swim, so I could direct this movie.”

Gurira’s co-star Angela Bassett, who plays Queen Ramonda in the films, noted that “Black girls have this history with water and their hair,” and Coogler asked if she would feel comfortable putting her head in water for a key scene.

“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,” Bassett said, noting that she could swim “a little bit.”

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