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Why Fred From Judas And The Black Messiah Looks So Familiar

The 1960s were a time of great change in America. On the musical front, Beatlemania swept the nation, forever affecting how we view rock 'n roll and treat famous musicians. On the scientific side of things, NASA finally broke through the atmosphere and entered the endless void of space. And back down on the ground, the civil rights movement organized to address racial injustice and secure equal rights.

Judas and the Black Messiah chronicles one of the many stories surrounding the movement: the life of Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton, who FBI informant William O'Neal (Lakeith Stanfield), infamously turned on in 1969. Since the destination is already known, the film instead focuses on the journey, making it a highly character- and actor-centric production. The performances are everything, and Hampton actor Daniel Kaluuya received best supporting actor nominations from both the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild. If he seems familiar, here's where you may have seen him before.

Kaluuya had an early role on a popular British dramedy

Teen dramas are a dime a dozen, but only so many can stand the test of time and garner a cult following. Despite the controversial plot-lines and themes, Skins is one such show. The series centers around a group (or "generation") of teens and young adults from Bristol, England, which rotated out for a new cast once every two years for the show's whole run. Kaluuya is part of the first generation, starring in a supporting role as "Posh" Kenneth for the first two seasons.

The quotation marks around his name are essential to his character, because in reality, he's a well-spoken young man with a good head on his shoulders, but he can easily make you think otherwise. Kenneth acts like an inner-city boy's inner-city boy, and raps to add that extra touch. The way Kaluuya seamlessly switches back and forth between Kenneth's diametrically opposed voices and personalities is an early show of his acting talent, and makes for some of Skins' best moments in the first two seasons. He also served as a writer on several episodes, which only bolstered the attention he received from the show.

Kaluuya got far more than he bargained for in Get Out

Get Out is not an inviting title. Director Jordan Peele may be a longtime comedian, but he wanted to ensure that audiences knew what they were about to see was no laughing matter. Based on the film's reception and legacy, it clearly worked.

The story follows Chris Washington (Kaluuya), nervous as anyone else would be to meet his girlfriend's family — doubly so because Rose (Allison Williams), a white woman, hasn't told them he's Black. It has to happen eventually, though, so the couple plans a weekend visit to the Armitage home. Shouldn't be that bad, right? Well, they run over a deer on their way up, and upon arrival, Chris can't help but notice the odd behavior of groundskeeper Walter (Marcus Henderson) and housekeeper Georgina (Betty Gabriel) — both Black — or the off-putting comments Rose's parents keep making about Black people. Something's... wrong.

It turns out to be more wrong than Chris could have ever guessed it'd be, drawing him into a horrifying whirlpool of racial prejudice and discrimination. Get Out isn't afraid to employ supernatural elements to the equation, either, making for a wild ride indeed. The social commentary on display is masterfully presented, and is only bolstered by the equally-as-masterful acting. Kaluuya was nominated for the Best Actor Oscar for his layered performance, and received many other accolades and high praise in addition to the nomination.

Kaluuya's loyalty was tested in Black Panther

Chadwick Boseman made quite an impression as Black Panther, a.k.a. T'Challa, when he first appeared in 2016's Captain America: Civil War; a unique fighting style, full-body costume, and Vibranium claws will do that. The character has been around since Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's Fantastic Four #52, featuring in several animated shows over the years — but Civil War marks his live-action debut. Whether viewers recognized him from the pages of Marvel Comics or not, nobody doubted that the enigmatic Black Panther would receive a movie of his own eventually.

And right they were. Black Panther grants viewers an intricate look at Wakanda, the country T'Challa hails from and rules. Kaluuya stars as fellow Wakandan W'Kabi, T'Challa's best friend and security head for the Border Tribe (one of several such groups in the country). Orphaned after an attack by Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis), he developed a lifelong desire for vengeance and a hope that when T'Challa took the throne, things would be different than they were under T'Chaka (John Kani). Disappointed on both accounts, W'Kabi was led to question where his loyalties truly lied.

Even in light of Boseman's untimely passing in August 2020, Marvel fully intends to honor his legacy and continue the Black Panther franchise. Whether or not Kaluuya will return as W'Kabi remains to be seen.

Kaluuya took to the road in Queen & Slim

First dates can be... hard. Maybe one person's super early, or the other's super late. Maybe the conversation isn't flowing the way it should. Maybe both parties want something different, causing tension that no amount of clear communication can resolve. 

For the couple in Queen & Slim (played by Jodie Turner-Smith and Kaluuya), their first date struggles are only elevated by an unpleasant encounter with police on their drive home, when the Tinder matches are stopped on the road by one Officer Reed (Sturgill Simpson) for seemingly no other reason beyond the color of their skin. The policeman performs an overly thorough search of the car, and when the chilly night prompts Slim to ask Reed to move a little faster, Reed draws his gun. Queen, a criminal defense attorney, steps in, notifying the officer that she has the right to record the situation and reaches for her phone; Reed's trigger finger responds, shooting her in the leg. Slim leaps to Queen's defense, and ends up killing the policeman with the same gun he shot Queen with. Now, they only have one choice: run.

Their travels change who they are and bring them closer than a simple date ever could. But their circumstances aren't ideal, and the danger of their Bonnie and Clyde crusade only escalates the farther they go. Both actors received well-deserved attention for their performances, with Kaluuya proving once again that acting can serve as poignant social commentary.

Kaluuya's set to star in (and produce) The Upper World, based on the YA fantasy novel of the same name by Femi Fadugba. After that, though? COVID-19 or not, the thespian's talents are well regarded, so we're sure to see much, much more of him in the future.