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Daniel Kaluuya On Fred Hampton Portrayal Criticism: “You Have To Address It”

Daniel Kaluuya portrays Fred Hampton in the upcoming film Judas and the Black Messiah.

Ahead of the release of Judas and the Black Messiah, Daniel Kaluuya recently spoke about portraying Fred Hampton, working with director Shaka King and more. The actor also addressed criticism he has faced for being a British actor portraying the late African-American activist.

“…it’s triggering for generations of African-Americans, and you have to address it, and accept it, and have the conversation, and then interrogate your reasons for doing a project, and your reasons why you’re going in, and going, ‘Do the pros outweigh the cons of it?’ And then if it does, then you move forward,” he said in an interview with Deadline. “If you don’t, then you don’t. That’s why I don’t ignore the conversation. I try not to block it and ignore the conversation, let it flow. I just believe that we are stronger together as a diaspora. And I want to help that union, and if people don’t want to unite, then that’s what they want. I can’t force them.”

Kaluuya also spoke about how he traveled to Chicago to received the Hampton family’s blessing to portray him.

“…we eventually got to see the family, Fred Hampton Jr. and Mama Akua [Njeri, Hampton Jr.’s mother]. I just accept the conversation, accept the responsibility,” he said. “Then you can put it to the side and do your job. If you understand what it is, you can contextualize what it is, and go, ‘OK cool, these are real things. These are valid things.’ And then just go, ‘Alright, put that to the side, I’m still here to do a job.'”

“And if I go, ‘Oh well, there’s all these other factors that come in, that’s why I couldn’t do it, that’s why I couldn’t learn my lines,’ no one cares,” he continued. “I mean, with love, not in a dismissive way. No one cares. You’ve got to show up and do what I’ve been working for.”

King had previously defended his choice to have Kaluuya portray Hampton.

“I’m well aware of the debate around British actors playing American Black, iconic figures,” he said last year. “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.”

Judas and the Black Messiah will be premiering at this year’s Sundance Film Festival on Monday, February 1. It will then be released on February 12, 2021, on HBO Max and in theaters.

Elijah C. Watson

Elijah Watson serves as Okayplayer's News & Culture Editor. When he's not writing he's listening to Sade and crying or watching My Hero Academia with his partner.

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