Lakeith Stanfield is working to catch a murderer in Knives Out, opening in theaters on Thanksgiving day. Shadow And Act caught up with the actor to get some more insight into Knives Out and Stanfield’s other upcoming projects, including the film previously titled Jesus Was My Homeboy and Prince of Cats. He also divulged what it was like being one-on-one with Donald Glover during that iconic “Teddy Perkins” episode of Atlanta.

Your role in Knives Out is vastly different than all of your past roles, what was it like stepping into the role of Lt. Elliot? 

It was quite inspiring, being around all of these people that have been in the business much longer than me and have a lot of experience that they can wittingly and unwittingly pass on to me. It’s nice to be a fly on the wall and I almost feel like I was plucked off the street and put into a movie for the first time because it just felt so grandiose. My trailer went from being a normal-sized trailer that I’m used to to this full-sized, luxurious trailer. It was a step in a new direction in terms of the scale. And Lt. Elliot, that was an opportunity for me to explore being a detective in a different way. I’d played a detective when I played L in Death Note a few years ago, but this was a different style of detective, much is more what we’re used to seeing, a traditional detective. I digested a lot of information about interrogations, [tactics detectives take when] solving crimes, and then I just regurgitated it.

Can you tell us anything about the Fred Hampton project, formerly titled Jesus Was My Homeboy from Warner Bros and MACRO? 

I’ve always wanted to be a part of a movie that spoke to the civil rights movement, in particular, the Black Panther movement. It had a profound influence on me in my personal life, specifically Fred Hampton, which this story centers around. I’m really really glad to be able to step into this kind of film. When I first started, I always wanted to do films that highlighted some of the sort-of non-talked about things in our history and in this country and the leaps we have taken to get from underneath the bonds of white supremacy. So I was very happy to be a part of this film.

Another big film role coming up for you is in Prince of Cats. We’ve been covering that film on Shadow And Act, including the news that Spike Lee is going to direct. You’ve already worked with some big names such as Ava DuVernay and Donald Glover; what does it feel like to add Spike Lee to the list?

I’m very interested in the prospect to move forward and exchange ideas and see if we can come to a common ground. Spike Lee is another one–I’ve been watching his films for a very long time, so I was excited when I heard the news.

So many fans are excited to see you on the big screen, and it turns out you have some fans in the industry too. Both Adam Sandler and Brad Pitt have said very flattering comments about you, your work and your work ethic recently. How does that feel as an actor to know so many people are watching your craft? 

I really prefer [people] to watch the craft more than me, but I must say that I’m glad that [Pitt and Sandler] appreciate the ethic because I put a lot of work into it and I try to be thorough and really focused the whole time I’m on set. The fact that people are taking notice is quite nice. I really appreciate those two as artists and what they’ve done for the art form for many years. It’s quite nice to see that they’re paying attention and they are a fan of the work.

We know you probably get asked all the time when is Atlanta coming back. But when do you think we could expect it and what would you like to see Darius do in the new season? 

You’ll see it quite soon. That’s as detailed of information as I’m able to give on that. But I think we can expect the unexpected. I mean, the character is constantly [upending] my expectations and going to strange places. But the world is getting crazier and crazier by the minute, so you can expect some of that craziness to influence what you see in Atlanta.

I want to ask you about “Teddy Perkins.” That’s my favorite Atlanta episode. What was it like filming that with just you and Glover?

It was quite a fun experience because I didn’t know Donald was under all of that stuff for the first couple of takes. I looked in his eyes and was like, ‘Is that Donald?’ for a second, because I know them eyes when I see them. But he had the contacts on. His eyes were blue, and [he had] this weird face. I didn’t want to stare at him too long because I didn’t want to be rude, but I kind of thought it might be Donald. And then later on when I found out, I was like, “Aw s**t, y’all got me for a second.” I was very confused and that house is very creepy, just like how you see on the show. Pretty much everything you saw on the episode was really what the experience was like. It’s like traumatizing [laughs].

What do you hope audiences will take away from Knives Out when they see it in theaters this Thanksgiving?

I hope they have a good time. I haven’t seen it yet, but it’s a great story. So hopefully it’s something people will engage in and be interested in what the next turn might bring. I hope people will be surprised. I hope they have fun.


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Photo credit: Lionsgate

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