Lakeith Stanfield is getting some rave reviews for his turn as William O'Neal in Shaka King's Judas and the Black Messiah.
As the film depicts, facing prison, William O’Neal is offered a deal by the FBI: if he will infiltrate the Black Panthers and provide intel on Hampton, he will walk free. Taking the deal, he becomes a comrade in arms in the Black Panther Party, constantly rising within the group's ranks as he gets closer and closer to Hampton's inner circle. Instead of a Hampton biopic, the film plays more like a crime thriller with O'Neal. His paranoia is something that Stanfield had to tap into for this role.
At the same time, he had to add layers to the man some would say is a Benedict Arnold of sorts. The actor spoke about this in an interview with Shadow and Act.
"I wanted to hint around to his thrill-seeking nature and [his] cunning, quick-wittedness and apparent intelligence...but also hint around to his maybe vulnerable sides and that might've been in direct conflict with some of the things he had to do. That was written into the script a little bit, but some of it was also just my interpretation of how someone must have to be being aligned with a beauty that was The Black Panther Party."
Stanfield also explained the experience of being an actor playing a person that's so deep in trenches of their own fear.
"For me as an actor, one of the hardest things to do is to play scared," he explained. "Being scared is so visceral, it's so like guttural...it just comes from a place that can't be intellectualized. So you have to find for me something that puts you in that headspace. So you sometimes, you know, you got to go to some interesting places to find it. You've just got to imagine some things. There might be some scenes where I'm just basically I'm imagining everyone's a monster to some extent. So it puts you in that space."
Watch the full interview below, via Shadow and Act Live: