There was a moment filming “Judas and the Black Messiah” that star Daniel Kaluuya will not forget.
In the scene, Kaluuya as Black Panther leader Fred Hampton delivers his famous “I am a revolutionary” speech.
“It’s not like I became him, I felt like he was there,” Kaluuya recently told CNN. “I felt like he was coming through me, like he was in the room.”
The powerful film tells the story of Hampton, who was killed during a police raid on his home at the age of 21, after he had worked tirelessly as a Blank Panther in Chicago to help the disadvantaged and forge alliances between rival gangs.
The movie tells a historic tale with timely themes, Kaluuya said.
“This film and what what Chairman Fred said and what the Black Panther Party stood for is able to articulate how a lot of people feel in this current moment,” he said. “I feel last year, after the murders of George Floyd and Breeona Taylor, there was a lot of feeling.”
“And I remember Shaka [King, the movie’s director] speaking to the rest of the class, thinking, wow, like these guys said exactly what was happening right now,” Kaluuya added. “Not only did they say it, but they had strategies and plans to help combat and to help deal with things and help empower people for themselves.”
The film also reunites Kaluuya with his “Get Out” co-star Lakeith Stanfield, who plays William O’Neal, the man who infiltrated Hampton’s group at the behest of the FBI and ultimately betrayed him to authorities.
“Lakeith’s amazing man, he’s just an incredible talent,” Kaluuya said. “It’s amazing to have someone walking the same path as you. With ‘GetOut’ and ‘Judas,’ we’ve had two unique experiences.”
Stanfield echoed that.
“Daniel is cool, a hard worker, always nice to be around him, a smart guy and we get along,” Stanfield told CNN. “Hopefully, we can do more stuff together.”
Stanfield said the “I am a revolutionary” scene was “beautiful.”
“It crescendoed up,” he said. “It was a unique thing to see all these beautiful Black skin and Afros holding up a centralized thought.”
Both men worked hard on embodying the real men they portrayed — something that was a little more difficult for Stanfield since there was much less source material available about O’Neal.
“Because he was doing secret operations with the FBI, his identity and all the things about him, were not very well known, obviously, at the time,” Stanfield said. “So, I didn’t have a lot to work with, but I had his interview from [the documentary] ‘Eyes on the Prize’ [in which O’Neal appeared] and a couple of court transcripts, as well as a couple of stories of second-hand accounts and views of who he was and what he did.”
With that, the actor pieced together a performance of a man who regrets what he feels he must do in order to prevent law enforcement from punishing him for his own crimes.
Kaluuya said he met with Fred Hampton Jr. and his mother (portrayed in the film by actress Dominique Fishback) for several hours and listened intently to learn more about the man he said he had only known bits and pieces about prior to signing on to the film.
Stanfield said he took away something powerful from the project.
“To continue on the idea that there’s power where there’s people with a centralized understanding and goals and ambitions,” he said. “That’s a beautiful truth to be reaffirmed through this project.”
“Judas and the Black Messiah” will be released Friday. Warner Bros. and CNN share parent company WarnerMedia.