What You Don’t Know About Daniel Kaluuya

Daniel Kaluuya is one of the most sought-out actors today, and with the way that he commands his audience’s attention with his varied accent work and expressive eyes, it isn’t hard to see why. Each project he’s taken on in recent years has pushed boundaries and expectations while also tackling timely and culturally relatable issues. His performance in critically-acclaimed films such as Get Out, Black Panther, Queen & Slim, and Judas and the Black Messiah paints a picture of someone who knows exactly what he’s doing (via IMDb).

In February 2021, Kaluuya’s powerful role as Illinois Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton in Judas and the Black Messiah landed him a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture, per Deadline. This is one example among many of how the actor’s intentional choices have sparked important conversations and reached diverse audiences that are ready to listen to what he has to say.

Daniel Kaluuya's passion as a writer solidified his British TV roles

Long before the critical acclaim, stacking up massively successful films and shattering the box office numbers, Daniel Kaluuya got his start on a smaller screen (and behind the scenes). From 2007 to 2009, he starred as Posh Kenneth in the British teen drama series Skins alongside an impressive cast including Nicholas Hoult, Kaya Scodelario, and Dev Patel (via IMDb). But he didn’t just star in the hit show, he was also a writer for the show’s first two seasons. Kaluuya has always been passionate about writing, starting from when he wrote his first play at just nine years old, according to BBC.

In an interview with the Independent, Kaluuya revealed that he drew inspiration from his life for Skins. “What’s great about Skins is that the characters are exactly like people around you,” he explained. “If I was at school and one of my friends said something funny, I’d write it down in a notebook and take it to the writers’ meetings. I never told my friends about it. I just thought I could incorporate stuff that was true to life.”

The series ended in 2013, but nostalgic fans on Reddit are still praising Kaluuya for his comedic timing and writing on the show. They highlighted Season 2, Episode 8 titled “Jal” and Season 3, Episode 3 titled “Thomas” as the best-written episodes of the series, both of which he’s credited as the lead writer (via BBC).

He wasn't invited to the premiere of Get Out despite being the film's lead and breakout star

Daniel Kaluuya has had a monumental career. After starring as the main character in Jordan Peele’s 2017 film Get Out, Kaluuya was thrust into the spotlight and scored him an Oscar nod for the Best Actor category. The highly praised film picked up $255 million worldwide, was crowned 2017’s biggest hit, and further cemented its spot in film history, as reported by CNBC.

But even with these impressive stats, apparently, a lot was going on behind the scenes. Kaluuya’s February 2021 appearance on The Graham Norton Show (via YouTube) left his fans reeling when he revealed that he wasn’t invited to the film’s premiere at Sundance Film Festival. “I was in Atlanta because I was shooting ‘[Black] Panther and I was chilling, I cleared my schedule. I was like, ‘I really wanna do it.’ And then I just didn’t get the invite, man,” Kaluuya explained to host Graham Norton.

When prompted further about whether he called them out for the surprising mishap, the actor added “I don’t ask questions, I was just like I get it, man. That’s cool…You don’t want to be in a place that you don’t feel wanted, you feel me?” Luckily, he was rightfully celebrated at other premieres for the hit film and award shows, per Page Six

His artistic journey is the culmination of 10 years of growth and perseverance

Daniel Kaluuya’s success didn’t happen overnight. In 2011, years before Get Out, Kaluuya captivated audiences with his raw, emotional delivery in Season 1, Episode 2 of the hit science-fiction TV series Black Mirror (via Indie Wire). He actually scored his role in Get Out because director Jordan Peele was impressed by his performance, per Screen Rant

According to the man himself, the Kaluuya you see today has been shaped by years of self-reflection, making intentional film choices, and instilling meaning into his work.

He spoke to Entertainment Weekly about his journey from smaller projects to the era-defining films he’s added to his formidable résumé in recent years. “My craft has grown, and you do see that journey. But I’m operating from a place of, ‘How am I helping say something?'” he explained. “There’s stuff I want to say and there’s stuff I want to help people say. Coming from that position, it doesn’t feel like success.”

DDaniel has faced criticism for portraying the Black American experience as a Briton

Over the years, the British writer-actor has taken on pivotal roles that have helped further the dialogue on the racism and injustices that Black Americans face daily. In the 2019 film Queen & Slim, Daniel Kaluuya draws on his own experience with racial profiling as a Black man with darker skin to play a character who goes into hiding after shooting a cop in self-defense, according to the New York Post.

His success has sparked a debate on casting British actors in American roles. In 2020, he revealed to The Sunday Times that he pursued more roles in America because he was constantly skipped over for projects in England due to his race, per Entertainment Weekly. But a few years before this admission, Samuel L. Jackson called Kaluuya and other Black British actors out for starring in roles that focus on the Black American experience during an appearance on Hot 97 (via YouTube).

Kaluuya responded to the criticism in an interview with GQ, lamenting having to constantly defend his Blackness. “This is the frustrating thing, bro  —in order to prove that I can play this role, I have to open up about the trauma that I’ve experienced as a Black person,” the star confessed. “I have to show off my struggle so that people accept that I’m Black. No matter that every single room I go to I’m usually the darkest person there.”

Daniel's groundbreaking role in Judas and the Black Messiah was a labor of love

Starring in the historical biopic Judas and the Black Messiah gave Daniel Kaluuya the opportunity to learn more about the civil rights movement in America, but also reflect on his own experiences with racism and oppression. In an interview with NPR, he shared his process for becoming Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton, including reading most of the books on the suggested reading list that Black Panther Party members were given.

“I had to let go of a lot of myself. I had to let go of concepts that I have been wedded to, even, like, the concepts of age,” Kaluuya explained. “Like, I feel you’re as old as the responsibilities you feel you have and how you show up in that responsibility. You know, and he felt a responsibility to awaken Black people, you know, awaken people and so they can actualize themselves for themselves, you know?” It’s clear that Hampton’s long-lasting impact on the Black community at just 21 years old is infused into the actor’s portrayal.

Daniel partnered with his girlfriend to produce this film

Actor and writer aren’t the only titles in Daniel Kaluuya’s repertoire. According to The Guardian, the critically-acclaimed actor partnered with Mattel Films to produce a live-action film based on the popular children’s television series Barney & Friends. Yes, you read that right. Kaluuya shared his reason for wanting to produce the film in a statement. 

“Barney was a ubiquitous figure in many of our childhoods, then he disappeared into the shadows, left misunderstood,” he shared. “We’re excited to explore this compelling modern-day hero and see if his message of ‘I love you, you love me’ can stand the test of time.”

His girlfriend Amandla Crichlow, who is an actress and producer, also joined the project, per The Hollywood Reporter. The actor has been pretty quiet about his relationship with Crichlow, whose father is the late activist Frank Crichlow. Her activist ties to racial justice and Kaluuya’s honest portrayals of the Black experience reveals why they compliment each other (via Bustle).

On top of producing, directing might also be in his future. In a November 2019 appearance on Cinema Blend’s podcast ReelBlend, he opened up about whether he’ll ever try his hand at directing. “Everyone’s been saying I’m a director since I was young because in order to write I have to see it. That’s probably why it takes me so long to write,” he explained. “But I just haven’t got around to it. There’s just so much to do.”

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