Lakeith Stanfield is earning rave reviews for his performance as William O'Neal - the FBI informant who infiltrated the Black Panther Party - in Judas and The Black Messiah. However, the dark nature of the role and the film took a heavy toll on the versatile actor.
In an interview with Level, Stanfield revealed he got a therapist just in time for the delayed release of Judas and The Black Messiah. Stanfield pointed to a cut scene in the film where O'Neal had to poison Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya) as a source of stress.
"In the scene where I had to poison him, a lot of it didn’t end up making it to the final cut, but we shot [me mixing it in] Kool-Aid, and I had to go through all those emotions,” he said. “With somebody like Daniel, who I just respect as a human and an artist, as Fred Hampton, it felt like I was actually poisoning Chairman Fred Hampton."
Stanfield went on to further talk about the emotional toll of playing O'Neal, detailing his experiences of having panic attacks.
"So sometimes your body thinks that’s real, everything you’re putting it through,” he explained. “It’s no wonder I’ve been feeling so stressed out and having panic attacks. I realized going forward before I step into something like that again, maybe have a therapist.”
He continued, "I’ve found this really cool therapist. It’s great and perfect for me right now. Hopefully it continues to be the case. It’s helped me a lot. After doing press yesterday, I had another session and it was amazing. It helps you unlock things about yourself. It’s not even necessarily about the person that you’re doing therapy with, but like you said, perspectives and strategies and tools that you didn’t have access to before."
Judas and The Black Messiah is now available in theaters and on HBO Max.