“I was deeply honored and felt deeply blessed that it came my way and I’m in a position to receive it,” remembers Daniel Kaluuya about how he felt to be cast in the role of Black Panther Chairman Fred Hampton in director Shaka King‘s “Judas and the Black Messiah.” By taking part in this seldom-told story about Hamtpon’s life, activism and ultimate assassination by the FBI, the actor was “aiming to be honest,” first and foremost. “I didn’t overthink it, I just stayed present and let it come through me.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Kaluuya above.
He “felt an emotional responsibility sitting down with” Hamtpon’s surviving family, including his son Fred Hampton Jr., who participated in the film as a cultural consultant. “They’re really going through this day-to-day, the repercussions of what happened almost 52 years ago. It made me show up even more, and then whenever I got tired I was like, what’s that? That’s nothing. You’re upholding this man and this family’s legacy, and that’s what matters.”
Doing so required a lot of physical and mental preparation. “I read the majority of books on the Black Panther reading list … to understand the mindset and the perspectives,” he explains. “I had an amazing dialect coach, Audrey LeCrone, who really helped me through … She advised to go find a singing coach, so I found an opera singing coach to study cadence … and also to kind of engage my diaphragm and also condition my vocal chords” because “I felt like in this film, there’s moments when I’m in a play and everyone else is in a film because of the demands on my vocal chords.”
Now that the film has been released, Kaluuya feels it would be a “privilege” if viewers are inspired to learn more about Hampton, “and hopefully look upon the free medical clinic that he set up, the breakfast program feeding kids, the educational program for the kids. And really look at the Rainbow Coalition and how he united people from different communities.” He’s not defined solely by how he died. He’s also “a man that has a lot of love in him. He has a lot of love for his own.”
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