‘Judas and The Black Messiah’ Director Defends Casting British Actor as Black Panther Leader

“Kidnapped Africans ended up all around the world. We have a lot more in common than people think, in terms of our experience and trying to overthrow white supremacy.”

Though it’s unclear whether there’s been any actual criticism of the decision, Judas and The Black Messiah director, Shaka King, is already defending his choice in casting British actor, Daniel Kaluuya, as Black Panther Party chairman, Fred Hampton, in the upcoming biopic.

According to Variety, King headed off critiques of the casting in a recent panel discussion. “I’m well aware of the debate around British actors playing American Black, iconic figures,” King said. He adds, “But I was born in America, my family is Caribbean and I have a South African name so I am, literally, emblematic of a diasporic way of thinking.” King goes to note that “kidnapped Africans ended up all around the world,” drawing a throughline between the experiences of Black Americans and Black Brits in “trying overthrow white supremacy.” King also emphasized that the film was endorsed by Fred Hampton Jr. (son of the iconic activist,) who guided the cast and director on a tour of various locations in Chicago where his father organized, hoping they would be able to connect with the entwined legacies of his father and the Black Panther Party.

Oddly enough, it’s not the first time the casting of Kaluuya has been subject to some level of scrutiny. In the wake of Jordan Peele’s Oscar-nominated directorial debut, Get Out, Samuel L. Jackson contended the lead role should have gone to an American actor, echoing criticisms raised by the casting of David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr. in the 2014 film, Selma, and Cynthia Erivo as Harriet Tubman in 2019’s Harriet. 

Judas and The Black Messiah was originally slated for release on August 20th, 2020. However, the premiere has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a new date has yet to be announced. You can watch a trailer for the film below. Hold tight for updates on the drop in the weeks and months ahead.


Zo is a staff writer at Okayplayer where he covers music.

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