Pascale Armand and Danai Gurira are having a little love fest. Or rather, a big one. They’ve just finished their photoshoot and they cannot stop effusing with praise for each other.
“She’s a consummate artist is what I say about Pascale,” Gurira says.
“That’s what I say about Danai!” Armand adds.
“I know that I can trust her with a piece of work and she’s going to artistically navigate herself to a very powerful, and a very resonate and living performance,” Gurira adds.
Armand is starring in Gurira’s Eclipsed on Broadway—which marks Armand’s fourth time doing the play—and both received Tony Award nominations for featured actress and best play, respectively. However, Gurira doesn’t remember if she had seen Armand’s work before she cast her in Eclipsed for the first time. Both completed the graduate acting program at New York University, though they didn’t overlap, and they knew of each other.
“I heard you were looking for me!” Armand recalls.
“Everyone had raved about her work, maybe I hadn’t seen it,” Gurira says. “I have pretty good instincts about actors and parts, and so it was the first reading of Eclipsed, and I was trying to figure out who the cast should be and I was just like, Pascale is Bessie.”
And Armand has been Bessie/Wife #3 in Gurira’s drama about a group of women struggling for survival and independence during the Liberian civil war ever since. Gurira calls Armand one of her “usual suspects,” then adds, “But she’s probably my key usual suspect because I’ve never worked with one actor as I’ve worked with her.”
Before Broadway, Armand performed Eclipsed at Yale Repertory Theatre, the McCarter Theatre Center, and the Public Theater. Armand also led Gurira’s The Convert, about a young woman in 19th century Africa wresting with faith and her family’s traditions.
“That was her first leading role,” Gurira says. “That’s a testament to the fact that I have to keep writing because if I don’t, folks like her might not have the chance to lead a narrative.”