The Swimming Scenes In Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Were Especially Important To Danai Gurira

"Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" sends its characters — and the actors who play them — into the water, which can be a terrifying prospect if you're not confident in your swimming skills. But for Danai Gurira, who reprises her role as the Dora Milaje general Okoye, this wasn't a problem, since she came from a background as a competitive swimmer.

Okoye has her own Disney+ series on the way, so we'll be seeing much more of her in the future, and Gurira will no doubt have her work cut out for her when it comes time to prepare for her starring TV role. Of course, she's no stranger to that kind of role, having previously co-starred on "The Walking Dead" for eight seasons, where her samurai sword-wielding character, Michonne, wore signature dreadlocks. As Okoye, Gurira is rocking a bald head, which makes it easier for her to swim. But in a recent daytime TV appearance on "The View," the actress explained that she was still training hard for her swimming scenes "even before we got to training camp," due partly to her experience with the sport growing up.

"I was competitive until my early teens but, you know, Black girl and her hair, she had to stop. It was sad, it really was my hair. I grew up in Zimbabwe, we do have an Olympic swimmer, a gold medalist from this tiny country, so we're proud of her. Growing up, I did swim a ton. Coming here I swam just to work out here and there, but getting to swim for a film I thought was so cool, because we don't see a lot of Black folks swimming a lot. I was just really excited about that."

Learn to swim with Okoye

Gurira said she hired her own swimming coach for "Wakanda Forever" and unlearned some of the improper techniques she had picked up as a teen, but when her character goes into the water, she's still in peril from the undersea army led by Namor (Tenoch Huerta). You might think Namor would be more at home in the water than Okoye, but as we previously reported, Huerta secured the part of "Marvel's Aquaman," as it were, despite being unable to swim.

Gurira brought this up in her interview and used it to make a larger point about how swimming, a skill some might take for granted, isn't as much of a given for people of color. As she explained:

"People of color sometimes and swimming, we don't often get that life skill, and it is something that actually I've gotten kind of passionate about, because I found a stat. Simone Manuel — who is our first Black actual gold medalist from the United States out of Stanford — I found a stat through her organization that Black children are five times more likely to die from drowning. So that really — that really got me. And so I'm all in it right now, passionately trying to figure out how to bring more awareness around us in terms of that stuff. And I hope the movie encourages folks to go out and, you know, learn how to do some backstroke and breaststroke."

Speaking from personal experience, it's easy to forget how to swim even as an adult if you go enough years without doing it. Is it too late for Marvel to reframe Okoye's Disney+ series as an educational program? "Learn to Swim with Okoye."

"Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" is in theaters now.