'Judas And The Black Messiah': Akua Njeri Doesn't Believe This About William O'Neal's Death
Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

'Judas And The Black Messiah': Akua Njeri Doesn't Believe This About William O'Neal's Death

A focal character in the Oscar contender Judas and the Black Messiah is Deborah Johnson (Dominique Fishback), Fred Hampton’s fiancé who would eventually change her name to Akua Njeri.

In the wake of the film’s universal acclaim, Njeri sat down with Deadline to discuss the film, her thoughts on Lakeith Stanfield and why she doesn’t believe O’Neal committed suicide.

In the interview, Njeri won’t on to praise Stanfield’s performance as William O’Neal, the FBI informant who infiltrated to Black Panthers. “Before watching it onscreen, I watched LaKeith Stanfield in action,” she explained. “And I said to him, ‘you’re doing a damn great job, but I just can’t hug you. Because you are Bill.’ But he brought it, he really brought it. It was just so damn powerful.”

She continued, “He was O’Neal, with his mannerisms, the things he did. It’s always difficult, because I just don’t talk about it or watch it, I relive it, at some point. I still, today, haven’t watched the movie all the way through. I’ll get up and pretend I have to go to the bathroom, to get a break. It’s bringing up a lot of emotions, but this movie is an opportunity for people to have real discussion about the government and its relationship and its attack on the Black Panther Party, and that legacy. Those attacks continue today. I’m really proud of the movie and that I was able to be part of it. I think all the actors did a magnificent job, in bringing that portrayal to audiences today, right now.

O’Neal died in 1990 at the age of 40, but Njeri doesn’t necessarily believe his cause of death, revealing that when she went to his wake, the person in the casket did not resemble O’Neal.

“I was going to spit in O’Neal’s face, and turn the casket over, among other things I had planned. But when I got up to the casket and viewed him, I was frozen. Because it didn’t look like O’Neal,” Njeri disclosed.

“I repeated to a member of the Black Panther Party who came up beside me, I said, that’s not him, that’s not him,” she added. “I don’t know if he was given a new identity or what, but I never believed that was O’Neal. There was a story of how, in a cocaine-induced high, he was very paranoid that somebody was going to get him. And he ran out in the Eisenhower Expressway and got hit by a car and was killed.”

Judas and the Black Messiah is available for digital download and is still in select theaters.

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