British actor Daniel Kaluuya has always been vocal about witnessing racism all around, yet he admits never being aware of “awakening a community”. This was something he says he only realised after preparing for his role of Fred Hampton in the upcoming film “Judas And The Black Messiah”.
Kaluuya has already won a Golden Globe as Best Supporting Actor for his role of Hampton and is also garnering an Oscar buzz.
The biographical film tells the story of Hampton, chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party in Chicago of the late 1960s. Hampton was betrayed by FBI informer William O’Neal (Lakeith Stanfield).
“The message in Chairman Fred Hampton’s words and ideas — his ultimate purpose — is to awaken his community. He doesn’t want them just to be free. He wants them to free themselves. I think that’s such a rational and clear way to empower others. I was never exposed to his message before, in school or otherwise,” says Kaluuya.
“As a Black Panther, he would go into all-white areas, Hispanic areas of the community, address what they had in common and stitch these poor areas together. He worked to feed their children, bring free healthcare to their communities. His ability to defuse, his skills as an orator-the things that made him such an effective leader also brought him to the attention of the local and federal authorities,” says the 32-year-old.
Kaluuya says tried very hard to essay the role and even took up smoking to get into the skin of the character.
“I took up smoking to get a certain texture to my voice. I took singing lessons with an opera singer, to study breath and vocal control, preparing for his theatrical kind of performances, knowing that I’d be doing his speeches maybe ten hours in a day. I sang Gospel, James Brown, songs of the era,” he says.
“I read that Chairman Fred listened to speeches of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X to get auditory ideas. I’d watch footage of him during meals. And from the time I leave for the set, in the car, I’m in the dialect. I had worked three months with a dialect coach. It all contributed to building this important character,” he adds.