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The Untold Truth Of Daniel Kaluuya

Where do you know Daniel Kaluuya from? Well, you might have recently seen him in trailers and advertisements for "Nope," Jordan Peele's latest unique horror venture. Perhaps you remember Kaluuya from Jordan Peele's first film, "Get Out," where the young British actor plays the protagonist, Chris. Or maybe you've seen the prolific actor in his Best Supporting Actor-winning role as Fred Hampton in "Judas and the Black Messiah." If action is more your speed, maybe you loved him in "Black Panther," one of the best MCU movies to date.

Daniel Kaluuya was born in London and has performed on stage and on screen in the UK, moving on to leading roles in major US films at a young age. The charismatic actor has a theater and improv background, but has been doing astounding creative things ever since his childhood. His whole life, Kaluuya has kept it interesting to say the least. The actor seems both wise beyond his years, yet ready to set everything down to party at the drop of a pin. He already has some stories to tell and is looking to tell even more in the future. Here is his untold truth.

At age 9, Kaluuya wrote a play based on Kenan and Kel

The earliest major achievement of Daniel Kaluuya's life was actually a short play that he penned at the age of 9. Growing up in the '90s, Kaluuya was inspired by the early comedic stylings of Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell. The first play he wrote as a child was based on the duo's Nickelodeon show, "Kenan and Kel" (via Vulture), which aired from 1996 until the year 2000.

Kaluuya was encouraged to enter his play in a competition and ended up winning (via New York Times). This led to it being performed at the Hampstead Theater in London as the prize. A comedy about two guys who work in a fast food joint together, this ode to "Kenan and Kel" was the world's secret first exposure to this great talent. It certainly seems like a remarkable accomplishment for a 9-year-old, and his passion and creativity set the stage early for what has already turned into a extraordinary career.

He attended a very rowdy Catholic school

Daniel Kaluuya's mother was an immigrant from Uganda who came to London when Daniel was born. She sent him to a Catholic boys' school in north London called St. Aloysius. According to Kaluuya (via Vice) the Catholic school didn't necessarily come with a clean reputation. The actor called St. Aloysius a "boisterous school" and commented that the boys he would go to school with would get into fights quite often. "There was a time where we had all-year detention," Kaluuya said, "where the school would lock up our whole year because there were fights and knife crime." 

Kaluuya admits to being good in school, and a quick learner when he applied himself. But often, school didn't hold his attention very well or for very long, so he "messed around a lot," although he doesn't specify whether or not that included getting into scraps with classmates. His mother pushed him to get good grades, but Kaluuya never had the attitude that they mattered all that much. "If I got bad grades, I didn't see it as a reflection of me," he explained. "I knew from an early age that school was a test of your memory, rather than a test of your intellectualism."

He was once told he would never make it as an actor

When he was a student in London, Daniel Kaluuya was once told by an authority figure that he should give up on acting. In an Independent interview, Kaluuya admits that when he was 16 his mother was anxious about his future, so she took him to a place called Connexions. Tasked with providing professional guidance to people aged 13-19, this government agency is predominantly a UK career services resource for youth. Kaluuya said that his experience with Connexions "was basically youth advice. So we sat down with this woman in Connexions who told me, 'Acting is not gonna work out.' Could you imagine if I listened to her?"

One look at the actor's rapidly growing resume and it's easy to laugh off her words now. Still, that discouragement can't have been easy to deal with and Kaluuya's success shows that the actor's determination was among the forces working towards his career. 

Kaluuya is one of the youngest people to write for a TV drama

In addition to his obvious talents as an actor (not even 40, and how many award nominations?) Daniel Kaluuya is also an experienced writer. In fact, he is one of the youngest people to have ever written entire episodes on a primetime TV series. When Kaluuya was 18 (via The Independent), he was an actor and part-time writer on the British coming-of-age series "Skins." He began with a bit role, but went on to write a couple of episodes during the seasons that he co-starred on the series. 

In "Skins," Kaluuya plays Posh Kenneth, a recurring character in the first three seasons of the British dramedy. The British actor also had the sole writing credit on the Season 2 episode "Jal" and co-wrote the Season 3 episode "Thomas," in collaboration with "Skins" series co-creator Bryan Elsley. Even from the start of his career, Kaluuya was not interested in sticking to one lane, proving himself to be a star who takes advantages of his opportunities. 

He started doing American movies because he wasn't being cast in the UK

One of Kaluuya's first recognizable roles for US audiences was actually one of the actor's last UK roles, as he starred in the second episode of "Black Mirror" in its debut season. In "Fifteen Million Merits," Kaluuya played Bing, a man trapped in an exercise-fueled dystopia as he tries to help a woman achieve her dream of singing on TV. This role didn't launch the actor's career — in fact far from it. Even after "Black Mirror" blew up, Kaluuya began feeling like he had to take on more and more roles in American movies and TV projects.

Kaluuya told Interview magazine in 2017 that he had found himself at a dead end when it came to getting starring roles in the UK. "It didn't really get people to go, 'I'm going to cast Daniel in something,'" the actor said. "That's when I realized that I'm not really going to do anything that I believe in as much in England, so I started looking to America."

Kaluuya almost quit acting before he was cast in Get Out

In retrospect, it's easy to see how "Get Out" was a turning point in Daniel Kaluuya's career. But even at the time — before the overwhelming critical acclaim (via Rotten Tomatoes) and cultural status as a word-of-mouth must-see horror movie — the role literally saved the actor's career. Before he was cast in Jordan Peele's film, Kaluuya hadn't acted for over a year. He had started to consider his career finished. Fulfilling movie roles were hard to come by in the UK, and the young Brit had all but given up.

In a conversation with Peele (via Essence), Kaluuya admitted that getting cast in "Get Out" snapped him out of this tailspin. "I've never told you this," the actor said to Peele, "but when you reached out to me I was really disillusioned with acting. I had stopped acting for like a year and a half."

Later in the interview, Kaluuya admitted that it was very apparent he wasn't getting roles due to the racism that was still prevalent in Hollywood. Peele said, "Even while making a movie in 2016, we were looking for a lead Black actor and realized there's not a lot who have been given opportunities to be the lead of a film."

He did a lot of improv work on Get Out

In the few short years since he has risen to a household name level of fame, Daniel Kaluuya has cemented his reputation as a serious actor. Despite the comedic elements of "Get Out," it's a movie that deals in heavy topics. But that doesn't mean that a skill used by comedians all the time wasn't incredibly important to Kaluuya's performance in Jordan Peele's thrilling debut.

Before his film acting days, Kaluuya had some training in improvisation. As it turned out, improv became a useful skill on the set of "Get Out." In an interview with SlashFilm, Kaluuya said that "a majority of the film was improvised, a lot of stuff made up in a day."

The actor said that a good amount of the scenes changed in subtle and overt ways from the page to the screen. This improv-heavy environment got the cast to exude the natural vibe that sells the unnatural events that come later in the film. "I think everyone knew where their character arcs were going," Kaluuya said, "so people were kind of managers of their characters and mapping that."

Grime DJs and musicians are some of his biggest inspirations

One of Daniel Kaluuya's favorite genres of music is grime, a subgenre of electronic music that was first popularized in the actor's hometown of London. UK artists like Skepta and Wiley have broken out and popularized the sound for mainstream audiences worldwide (via Smithsonian). For these reasons and more, Kaluuya really admires these MCs and finds a lot of personal inspiration in their stories.

In a profile with Elle, Kaluuya discussed how he looked up to Skepta and others in that scene because they came from similar backgrounds. When it comes to people from lower income backgrounds finding success, Kaluuya sees this as people getting what they are owed. "Systematic blocks were put in place to stop grime artists from becoming the Oasis of our time," Kaluuya said regarding Skepta, JME, and the grime genre. "It's so inspiring. You don't understand how subconsciously we've been told that we can't. [Now] we can just be us and we can thrive."

He trained with an opera coach to condition his voice

When Daniel Kaluuya was playing Fred Hampton in "Judas and the Black Messiah," he fully committed to making the role the best he could. For the making of "Judas," Kaluuya put in 12-hour days in a dialogue-heavy leading role. So much of capturing Hampton, according to Kaluuya in his interview with Trevor Noah (via YouTube), was about sounding the way the Black Panther leader sounded, both in private and in public.

Hampton was a radical known for his stirring speeches that called Black and poor people to action against oppression and systemic racism. In order to capture his spirit, it was recommended that Kaluuya devote time to vocal lessons with a professional. If he was going to be working such long days putting in such a strenuous performance, especially as a speaker, he needed proper training. The coach he got, Kaluuya admitted, was an opera singing coach. But apparently this was just what Kaluuya needed to deliver his Oscar-winning performance.

He said on record that the Heir Holiness rumors were untrue

In early 2022, there were some inflammatory rumors going around concerning Daniel Kaluuya's personal and professional life. Primarily, the word swirling around was that Kaluuya had become suddenly and uncontrollably under the influence of a life strategist going by the moniker Heir Holiness. Apparently, Kaluuya had fired all his close representatives, including his agents and publicists, at her direction. But in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Kayuula outright denied these allegations. 

The speculation was apparently started by the fact that Kaluuya does not at this time have representation in the form of a US agent. However, the rumors that he dropped his the rest of representation and support systems were unfounded, but nevertheless became quickly perpetuated. "It showed me that I was in a paradigm of fame," the actor said. "An unnamed, unverified source has more credibility than what is actually said and the truth of the situation ... it's like, well, that's not what's happened." He remains with his longtime UK agents and US managers.

He wrote a screenplay that Netflix is turning into a movie next year

Technically, Kaluuya did get his start as a playwright, if you count the "Kenan and Kel" short play he wrote as a 9-year old, but he has risen to prominence as an actor first and foremost. Yet over the years, Kaluuya has expressed interest in doing more writing and has even supposedly had projects in the works, but it was only recently that something he wrote has gone into production. 

In March of 2022 (via Deadline) it was announced that the dystopian thriller '"The Kitchen" was in development at Netflix and getting ready to roll cameras in London and Paris. Kaluuya was attached as both a co-writer of the script and a producer, with independent British filmmaker Kibwe Tavares ("Robots of Brixton") directing. "The Kitchen" is set in a crumbling near-future London of 2044. One day Izi, a working class inhabitant living in temporary housing on the edge of the city, meets 12-year-old Benji, and the two form a familial bond that pushes them forward to break free of their miserable situation. At press time Kaluuya was not set to appear in the film, which is shooting this year for a worldwide release in 2023.

He's still working on a dark take on Barney

Thus far in Kaluuya's career, he has been a very discerning artist and most of his endeavors have been hits. So it's surprising to see his name attached to an idea that sounds as ridiculous as "dark gritty take on Barney the purple dinosaur." Yet it has been reported multiple times over that Daniel Kaluuya has started, and continues to, work on a new, possibly darker take on Barney, the talking dinosaur who starred in his own wildly popular TV series, "Barney and Friends," for 14 seasons between 1992 and 2010.

The project was announced in 2019 by Mattel, the toy company that owns "Barney." In the announcement press release, Kaluuya was listed as a producer for the upcoming live-action movie. Unfortunately there have not been any updates on the state of the project for a couple years. In 2020, Kaluuya was asked about the "Barney" movie by Entertainment Weekly and his response seemed to indicate it was still in the works at that time.

He's not in Black Panther 2 because of Nope scheduling

Expectations for "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" are in an interesting place. Not much is known about the movie, its plot, or how it will account for the tragic death of its star, Chadwick Boseman, in its narrative. Original "Black Panther" director Ryan Coogler has helmed this project as well, but beyond his involvement and the return of much of the original cast, little else has been revealed by Marvel Studios about the November 2022 release.

What we do know is that Daniel Kaluuya is not returning to the MCU (via Jacqueline Coley) to reprise his "Black Panther" role because of a scheduling conflict. Kaluuya played W'Kabi in 2018's "Black Panther," T'Challa's best friend and head of security who turns against the Wakandan king. W'Kabi's fate is left uncertain at the end of the original film, but according to the reporter's tweet, Kaluuya couldn't make it to the "Black Panther" sequel because he was too busy working on Jordan Peele's "Nope." This scheduling conflict doesn't necessarily preclude Kaluuya and W'Kabi from returning to the MCU at another time — but we don't expect Daniel Kaluuya to be any less busy any time soon.