Judas And The Black Messiah’s Director Raving About His 'Dream' Cast And 'Incredible' Actors Has Us Excited

Judas and the Black Messiah Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield

As we look ahead to the early months of 2021, few upcoming releases have us more excited than writer/director Shaka King’s Judas And The Black Messiah. While the movie doesn’t have a specific set release date just yet, it’s expected to hit theaters/HBO Max before this year’s unusual Academy Awards deadline, and the debut trailer that launched during the summer has us thinking that it will definitely be a contender. A big part of what has us filled with so much anticipation is just the outrageously talented cast that has been put together – and only further hyping that aspect is the revelation that every star was King’s first choice.

Though they have no actual direct involvement with Judas And The Black Messiah other than being fans of the film, Gabrielle Union-Wade and her husband Dwyane Wade hosted a special Instagram Live session with Shaka King this afternoon, and during the half hour conversation one subject explored at length was the all-star ensemble that has been put together. Lakeith Stanfield and Daniel Kaluuya play the principals, and there is extreme talent playing the supporting roles, including Dominique Fishback, Ashton Sanders, Jesse Plemons, Dominique Thorne, Darrell Britt-Gibson, and more. The filmmaker had nothing but great things to say about the cast, and added the enticing detail that he had each and every one of them in mind when he was penning the script:

It was just a dream. I always say I literally got my first choice for every role. Every single person you see in the movie, I wrote it for them. Before I met Daniel [Kaluuya], knew Daniel, before Ryan [Coogler] even got attached he was who I had in mind for Fred [Hampton]. And Lakeith [Stanfield], I literally wrote it for him. We had been wanting to work together since we met years ago. And the same goes for Dominique [Fishback]. I saw her in Show Me A Hero. I started writing Deborah Johnson, and I was like, ‘That’s Dominique Fishback. I just know it.’ Can’t forget about Jesse [Plemons]; it was the same thing.

Described by the director as an undercover thriller in the style of Martin Scorsese’s The Departed or Mike Newell’s Donnie Brasco, Judas and The Black Messiah chronicles the true story of how a small-time criminal named William O’Neal (Lakeith Stanfield) was convinced by the FBI to work as an informant specifically focusing on the actions of the Black Panther Party and its chairman Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya).

Despite being a massive chapter in the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, this is a story that has never been told in a feature film – though we did just see Fred Hampton portrayed by actor Kelvin Harrison Jr. a couple months ago in Aaron Sorkin’s Netflix film The Trial Of The Chicago 7. That movie only featured Hampton in an extremely minor role, however, and Judas And The Black Messiah is a movie that will put the revolutionary front and center.

According to Shaka King, his entire cast put in extreme effort in the making of the film, and he makes it sound like he is exceptionally proud of their work. The writer/director continued,

Everyone was really in the flow. Every single person was in the flow from the bigger names that I mentioned, to Dominque Thorne and Darrell Britt-Gibson, and Ashton Sanders, who is usually number one on the call sheet. The fact that he was even willing to step in here and just do some character acting. Algee Smith, same deal. Incredible, incredible, incredible actors, and so many that you’re seeing for the first time in this movie, and I’m confident you’ll see down the line a lot more.

In addition to all the names mentioned, Judas And The Black Messiah also stars Martin Sheen, Lil Rel Howery, and Jermaine Fowler.

As mentioned earlier, Warner Bros. has not yet announced a firm release date for the buzzed-about period drama, but just like every film on their 2021 slate it will be getting a day-and-date release in theaters and on HBO Max. We’re eagerly anticipating news of when the movie will arrive, so stay tuned for the latest updates about Judas And The Black Messiah here on CinemaBlend.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.