Daniel Kaluuya sheds light on how Black activist Fred Hampton's ideas inspired Judas and the Black Messiah
'Didn’t really engage with Judas and the Black Messiah as a film; was just kind of lost in Fred Hampton, and how powerfully he lived,' says Daniel Kaluuya, who won a Golden Globe for his role in the movie.
Hollywood star Daniel Kaluuya, who won a Golden Globe for his role in Judas and the Black Messiah, says he was inspired by the life of Black Panther activist Fred Hampton and it was the main reason for him to say yes to the upcoming movie.
Directed by Shaka King, the Warner Bros movie is inspired by true events in the late 1960s that were one of the most tumultuous and pivotal periods in American history.
Kaluuya, known for movies such as Get Out, Black Panther and Queen & Slim, stars as Hampton, the enigmatic activist and organiser who quickly ascended the ranks of the Black Panther Party to become the chairman of the Illinois chapter and deputy chairman of the national party.
Hampton was 21 when he was assassinated during a coordinated raid by a tactical unit with orders from the FBI and the Chicago Police Department.
Kaluuya said the film is a celebration of Hampton's legacy.
"I was just blown away—blown away about how brilliantly he lived, how he felt, his ideas, his concepts, how much love he had and how much he loved the people. I didn’t really engage with it as a film; I was just kind of lost in Chairman Fred and how powerfully he lived," the 32-year-old actor said in a transcript shared by Warner Bros.
The project reunites Kaluuya with his Get Out co-star LaKeith Stanfield, who plays William O'Neal, the FBI informant who gained access to the Panthers, as well as filmmaker Ryan Coogler, who directed him in the blockbuster movie Black Panther.
"I don’t think this film could happen without Ryan Coogler and his specific skill set. To get Warner Bros and Chairman Fred Hampton Jr to work on the same project is quite a feat in itself. There’s incredible producing just there and then.
"I mean Ryan, I’m just a huge fan of as a professional, as a person. He was great guidance and he understood how to empower us—to drop what we needed to hear at that time. He was there and great support for Shaka," Kaluuya said.
As part of his research to get into the skin of the character, the actor visited Chicago and the places where Hampton grew up.
"I went to his old elementary school, his old high school, his childhood home, his family home. I read dissertations and the majority of the Black Panther reading list — you had to have six weeks of political education before you could become a fully-fledged Panther.
"I spoke to Chairman Fred Jr (Hampton's son), and to Mama Akua (Hampton's fiance). I spoke to ex-Panthers and I really had a map of the time—all of these factors that led to this tipping point."
Kaluuya believes that Hampton was a product of all the injustices that Black people faced over many centuries.
"I think the reality in the Black community is very different. The law deals with the symptoms, but it doesn’t deal with the disease - and that disease is the continuous dehumanisation of Black life. And in that time, they were really living that. You were seeing these incredible leaders, like Malcolm X, gone, Martin Luther King, murdered.
"And if Martin Luther King is pushing peace and he’s murdered, how does that make the rest of the Black community feel about peace? So, the Black Panther Party is a product of this—enough is enough. If they’re at war, then we’re at war," the actor said.
The movie comes months after the US was rocked with countrywide protests over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Kaluuya believes that the audiences will understand the movie's message as there is a lot more awareness about Black issues today.
"It’s a new time and people have a level of awareness and a level of awakening. There’s not a lot of compromises in the film, in terms of the message and what happened in this. So, to receive that and this film in a very unfiltered way... I’m excited to see how people take it in," he added.
Judas and the Black Messiah, which also features Jesse Plemons, Dominique Fishback, Ashton Sanders and Martin Sheen, releases in Indian theatres on Friday.
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