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Actor Daniel Kaluuya says new film creates awareness

Warner Bros. releases ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’ in theaters, on HBO today

By Cheryl Daniel, Managing editor
On February 12, 2021

JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH
Photo Credit: Glen Wilson 
Copyright: © 2020 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved 
(Center front-back) LaKEITH STANFIELD as William O’Neal and DANIEL KALUUYA as Chairman Fred Hampton in Warner Bros. Pictures’ “JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

NEW ORLEANS (February 12, 2021) – Oscar nominee Daniel Kaluuya, who stars as Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton in the film “Judas and the Black Messiah” being released today, said college students not only can be entertained but become more aware by watching the film.

“It’s less about what you can do and more about how you see yourself,” he told a group of HBCU student journalists during a Feb. 6 virtual press junket. “We must choose to liberate our minds and empower our community.”

The Warner Bros. movie was released in theaters today and also is available via HBO Max.

Kaluuya, who will be 32 this month, was joined in the interview by LaKeith Stanfield, 29, who plays FBI informant William O’Neal. Kaluuya, a British actor and writer, is best known for the lead role in 2017’s “Get Out,” for which he received an Oscar nomination. Stanfield played Logan in the same film, the victim who warns Kaluuya’s character Chris to “Get out!”

Stanfield said “Black Messiah” is an important film to see, especially for black college students and for children in Chicago, the locale of the story.

“I want people to understand that the fight for black people to be seen as human beings has been going on for a long time. This is nothing new,” said Stanfield.

Hoover’s directive

The movie title comes from a directive in 1968 from then-FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover that told his team to “prevent the rise of a ‘messiah’ who could unify and electrify the militant black nationalist movement.” He specifically named the Rev. Martin Luther King, Stokely Carmichael and Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad.

 Kaluuya said he wanted to be a “vessel” in telling Hampton’s true story.

“Once I read the script, I fell in love,” he said. “I had to enrich myself and study the Black Panther Party to truly understand their ideals and who I was portraying. I made it my personal mission to meet Hampton’s family despite what everyone said.”

Kaluuya said he analyzed speeches from Hampton, King and Malcom X to prepare for the role. He also took opera classes to strengthen his vocal chords to be able to perform monologues for 12 hours at a time on set.

Hampton, whose family moved to the Chicago area from Louisiana during the Great Migration, was 21 when he was slain in his bed during a predawn raid in 1969 in what the FBI called a “shootout.” However, witnesses described it as a “shoot-in” by authorities, and civil rights activists Roy Wilkins and Ramsey Clark alleged police killed Hampton without justification.

O’Neal later admitted his involvement in setting up the raid; he committed suicide in 1990 after giving his only interview on the subject. No one was indicted, but the mothers of Hampton and Mark Clark, who also was slain, and seven other plaintiffs won a $1.85 million settlement paid by the city of Chicago, Cook County and the federal government.

Hampton, known as handsome, articulate and charismatic, started out as a youth leader in the NACCP before moving to the Black Panther Party and becoming chairman of the Chicago chapter.

He is credited with brokering a non-aggression pact among Chicago’s most powerful street gangs and creating the Rainbow Coalition joined by SDS, the Brown Berets, A.I.M. and the Red Guard Party seeking change in the areas of poverty, corruption, police brutality and substandard housing. He was about to become the Black Panthers’ chief of staff and national spokesman when he was slain.

Stanfield urged students to stay socially conscious and open-minded.

“Depending on what you bring to the film is what you will take away from it,” he said. “After seeing this movie, it is a choice to open your mind or continue believing your preconceived notions.”

Kaluuya started out while still in school as a writer and actor in the acclaimed British teen drama series “Skins.” In addition to “Get Out,” he also starred in “Black Panther” (2018), another movie nominated for best picture.

Stanfield, hailing from Victorville, California, is a rapper and actor who also has acted in “Knives Out” (2019), “The Photograph” (2020) and the television series “Atlanta” on FX.

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