On February 9th, actor Lakeith Stanfield spoke to radio station V-103’s The Morning Culture crew about his new film Judas and the Black Messiah. Stanfield spoke of his experience in “one of the hardest roles I ever had to play” and the mixed emotions brought on by reenacting black trauma and triumph during the American civil rights movement. He also addressed the educational value of the film, pointedly calling for the youths of Chicago and white people everywhere to view and learn from it.
Judas and the Black Messiah, directed by Shaka King, tells the true story of Illinois Chairman of the Black Panther Party Fred Hampton’s (Daniel Kaluuya) revolutionary impact on the 1960’s civil rights movement. It also features a unique portrayal of Bill O’Neal, the FBI informant who ultimately betrays Hampton and the Party. The film’s stellar cast also includes: Dominique Fishback, Jesse Plemons, Ashton Sanders, and Martin Sheen, as well as credits Black Panther director Ryan Coogler as one of its producers.
Stanfield told The Morning Culture about the dichotomy of telling black stories in Hollywood. He said, “I know that there’s so many stories that we can tell but it gets exhausting having to go through the tragedy time and time again when we’re looking at the way people are depicted in history that are black, especially the heroes.” On the other side of the coin, he recalled the profundity of seeing black people come together both on this film and in its civil rights reenactment, “I’m looking out into the crowd and I’m seeing all these afros and all these beautiful black people all in accord…all aimed toward one central thing” he reminisced.
He also spoke on the importance of educating, or reeducating, people on Chairman Hampton’s impact. He mentioned the danger of misinformation, stating “You have to educate yourselves on what your governments and people are doing and how they use misinformation to discredit groups. They did this with Black Lives Matter.”
Stanfield’s departing words were some of the most thought-provoking from an overall insightful and meditative interview. Like the duality of the two historical figures portrayed in the film, or their allegorical counterparts in its title, the actor addressed a fork-in-road scenario that we all will come to face. He said “…you do a lot of harm to yourself by trying to put yourself first. Chairman Fred Hampton died. You can kill a revolutionary but you can’t kill a revolution. His spirit and his thought lives on, while O’Neal is casted into the darkness of history forever and that’s because of the different routes they chose…so, I challenge people to ask what route you want to choose.”
Judas and the Black Messiah will see its theatrical release on Friday, Feb. 12, 2021, as well as stream on HBO Max the same day. It will only be available on the streaming platform for 31 days. The Warner Bros. production has already begun to receive ecstatic praise and has so far picked up nominations from the Globes and SAG, as well as winning AFI‘s Movie of the Year. For the full V-103 interview, visit: https://omny.fm/shows/wveefm-on-demand/lakeith-stanfield-the-morning-culture/embed.