Source: Marvel Studios

Marvel’s Black Panther is shaping up to be something very special. It has a supremely talented director in Ryan Coogler and he’s surrounded by as talented of a cast as there’s ever been in a superhero movie. It has all the pieces necessary to be a great movie, but it really is more than just an exciting new franchise. It is a significant step forward in the push for more diversity and inclusion in mainstream movies, particularly large studio films. This point is not at all lost on one of the film’s stars, Danai Gurira.

Gurira will play Okoye in Black Panther. Okoye is the leader of the Dora Milaje, which is essentially the Secret Service of the fictional nation of Wakanda, charged with protecting the country’s king. While speaking with Entertainment Tonight, Gurira shared her excitement about what the film and her role in it can mean for those members of the audience who’ve not been represented nearly enough in the genre.

“I grew up seeing a lot of superheroes and they didn’t look like me and they certainly weren’t in Africa. I think that it is something great for girls who are like me growing up. Growing up in Africa, we were looking for images we couldn’t always find.”

Black Panther will have a pair of powerful women to whom little girls can look up. Joining Danai Gurira in the film is Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o, who will play Nakia, another member of the Dora Milaje. As great as it will be to have these women in such prominent roles in something as big as a Marvel movie, Gurira points out that this is an important step, but not a mission accomplished.

“I want to see stories coming from the black female perspective to make sure they’re paying attention. We’re at a far better moment than we were at in the past, but there’s a lot of work to be done.”

Black Panther will also star Chadwick Boseman in the title role along with Michael B. Jordan as the villainous Erik Killmonger. The film will begin production early next year for a February 16, 2018 release.