Backstage in a virtual press room after winning an Oscar Sunday evening, actor Daniel Kaluuya said he wouldn’t have had the opportunity if not for Fred Hampton, the Black Panther leader he portrayed.
“The fact that I can even stand on this stage with this statue is because of what he did,” Kaluuya said.
The 32-year-old actor has used his multiple award season wins for his supporting role in Shaka King’s “Judas and the Black Messiah” to draw attention to all that Hampton did for the Black community and to urge audiences to do more to overcome systemic racism.
Hampton, who was killed by police in 1969, supported neighborhood medical clinics and a free breakfast program that could have been a model for modern school lunch programs for low-income students.
The name of the movie comes from then-FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s expressed fear that the Black Panther Party would yield a “messiah” who could unify the Black movement. The Judas of the title is Bill O’Neal, an FBI informant who infiltrated the Panthers.
Asked what winning the coveted Oscar meant to him and to the movement for racial justice, the actor said he believed it would help continue Hampton’s legacy.
“I think it’s just more people are going to watch … Chairman Fred’s story, man. That’s what it’s about. That’s what this is all about. It’s about telling the truth and getting it out there and making sure people see who this man was and what this man did and what this man continues to give,” Kaluuya told reporters.
The actor also won a Golden Globe and BAFTA Award for his portrayal, beating out fellow cast member LaKeith Stanfield, who was nominated for his take on O’Neal. Some critics thought Stanfield’s contribution belonged in the lead acting category.
“It’s a team effort. we did this together,” Kaluuya said. “I share this honor with every single member of the cast and crew.”
It was Kaluuya’s first Oscar win. He was previously nominated in 2018 for his lead role in “Get Out.”