Who Is Daniel Kaluuya?
Daniel Kaluuya is a black British actor who was seen mainly in English television shows until he was cast in the movie Get Out, his first lead role in an American movie. Released in 2017, the movie and Kaluuya were critically acclaimed and he became one of the year’s most notable breakout stars at the age of 29. In early 2018, he earned an Academy Award nomination for his performance in the film.
In Get Out, Kaluuya played a young African-American man who visits the parents of his white girlfriend (played by Allison Williams) for the first time. At first, her parents are by all appearances liberal and accepting. But as the visit proceeds, seemingly minor racial slights evolve into “a nightmare of captivity and exploitation.”
The movie was released during a period when racial tensions and related issues were hot topics. Directed by Jordan Peele, Get Out was the most profitable film of 2017 – earning a reported $250 million worldwide, while the movie had cost only $4.5 million to produce.
The movie’s success gave wide exposure to Kaluuya, who earned nominations from the Academy Awards, Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild for his lead performance. He also received nominations from a slew of movie critics’ associations and societies.
Samuel L. Jackson Stirs Controversy Over ‘Get Out’ Casting
However, the casting of Kaluuya was criticized by some – most famously by actor Samuel L. Jackson, who mused in an interview that an African-American actor may have done more with the role of Chris Washington in Get Out because a black actor living in America would have been able to draw on more personal experiences than a British-born one.
“There are a lot of black British actors in these movies,” Jackson said in the interview in March 2017 on a New York radio station. “I tend to wonder what [Get Out] would have been with an American brother who really feels that. What would a brother from America have made of that role? Some things are universal, but not everything.”
Kaluuya Responds to Jackson's Critique
Kaluuya addressed Jackson’s remarks in subsequent interviews. “Big up [to] Samuel L. Jackson, because here’s a guy who has broken down doors. He has done a lot so that we can do what we can do,” Kaluuya told GQ.
“Here’s the thing about that critique, though. I’m dark-skinned, bro. When I’m around black people, I’m made to feel ‘other’ because I'm dark-skinned,” he said. “I’ve had to wrestle with that, with people going ‘You’re too black.’ Then I come to America and they say, ‘You’re not black enough.’ I go to Uganda, I can’t speak the language. In India, I’m black. In the black community, I’m dark-skinned. In America, I’m British. …
“This is the frustrating thing — in order to prove that I can play this role, I have to open up about the trauma that I’ve experienced as a black person. I have to show off my struggle so that people accept that I’m black. … I resent that I have to prove that I’m black. I don’t know what that is. I’m still processing it.”
Movies & TV Shows
'Shoot the Messenger,' 'Skins'
While still a teenager, Kaluuya took acting and improv classes that led to auditions and his first role, at age 16, in the British TV series Shoot the Messenger. After that, he got a co-starring role in Skins, a notable BBC drama about hard-partying teens. In addition to acting, Kaluuya was also on the show’s writing staff for its first two seasons, while also continuing to write plays.
Kaluuya was also seen on stage. He played a boxer in the play Sucker Punch, a role that Kaluuya considers to be his “breakthrough.” He continued to appear on British TV in shows such as Black Mirror, Ruddy Hell! It’s Harry and Paul and Babylon.
At the same time, however, he began to feel that his opportunities in the U.K. were becoming limited for various reasons, including his lack of formal training.
“I wasn’t trained, I was too big, they didn’t want black leads, I don’t know …,” he told The New York Times. He eventually found an American agent, who got him a role in Sicario, a 2015 thriller starring Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin.
After Sicario, Get Out was Kaluuya’s second American film. Jordan Peele told The New York Times he cast Kaluuya in Get Out because he was impressed with the actor after he saw him in Black Mirror. (Kaluuya did one episode of the show, titled “Fifteen Million Merits”.)
'Black Panther,' 'Widows'
Now Kaluuya has two more American movies coming up – a supporting role in the upcoming superhero movie Black Panther (based on the Marvel comic book series) and Widows, directed by Steve McQueen. Both movies are due to be released in 2018.
When and Where Was Kaluuya Born?
Kaluuya was born in London on May 8, 1989.
Parents From Uganda
Though he was born and raised in London, both of Kaluuya’s parents are Ugandan. He grew up principally with his mother and older sister in a housing project in north London, while his father lived in Uganda. Kaluuya has said he did not connect with the Ugandan side of his family until he was 15.
Why He Took Up Acting
In an interview with The New York Times published in January 2018, Kaluuya implied that he was a hyperactive child, and a teacher suggested he take up acting as an outlet for his energy. So he wrote a play at age nine that won a local competition.
His interest in theater was soon replaced by soccer, but he later made his way back to acting by taking improv classes.
Kaluuya is currently dating a young woman named Amandla but has kept his personal life under wraps. He first stepped out with her at the MTV Music Awards in May 2017 and again at the Golden Globes in January 2018.
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