Daniel Kaluuya is addressing the criticism some African-American viewers have of him playing American civil rights leader Fred Hampton in Judas and the Black Messiah.
“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 to 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,” he continued. “I just believe that we are strong 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 said that he got Fred Hampton’s family’s blessing to play Hampton. He spoke about traveling to Chicago to meet with the family, including Fred Hampton Jr. and his mother Akua Njeri and secure their vote of confidence.
“I just accept the conversation, accept the responsibility,” said Kaluuya. “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, ‘All right, put that to the side, I’m stere to do a job.”
Judas and the Black Messiah, directed by Shaka King, will debut on HBO Max and in theaters Feb. 12.