Exclusive: Daniel Kaluuya Talks Black Panther and His Oscar Nomination For Get Out

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Exclusive: Daniel Kaluuya Talks Black Panther and His Oscar Nomination For Get Out
Posted by Wilson Morales

February 19, 2018

Currently in theater and making record setting box office numbers is Marvel Studios’ Black Panther. 

Directed by Ryan Coogler from a screenplay he co-wrote with Joe Robert Cole, the cast includes Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Sterling K. Brown, Daniel Kaluuya, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Florence Kasumba, Shaunette Renée Wilson, Isaach de Bankolé, and John Kani.

Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther” follows T’Challa who, after the death of his father, the King of Wakanda, returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation to succeed to the throne and take his rightful place as king. But when a powerful old enemy reappears, T’Challa’s mettle as king—and Black Panther—is tested when he is drawn into a formidable conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda and the entire world at risk. Faced with treachery and danger, the young king must rally his allies and release the full power of Black Panther to defeat his foes and secure the safety of his people and their way of life.

For Daniel Kaluuya, who plays W’Kabi, head of security for Wakanda’s Border Tribe as well as T’Challa’s best friend, the role came before Get Out hit theaters. Since filming Black Panther, Get Out exploded on the big screen with critical acclaim and record setting numbers and garnered Kaluuya on Academy Award Best Actor nomination. The nod made him the youngest Black actor to receive such an honor in that category. He recently won the Rising Star Award at this year’s BAFTAs and will next be seen in Steve McQueen’s Widows opposite Viola Davis. For the Ugandan English actor whose first big role in a Hollywood film was 2015’s Sicario, he’s made a big impression in the industry in such a short time.

In speaking with Blackfilm.com, Kaluuya talks about getting involved with Black Panther, his role as W’Kabi, and his Oscar nomination for Get Out.

How did the role come about?

Daniel Kaluuya: Ryan (Coogler) had seen me in a short film called “Baby” in 2010 by Daniel Mulloy and he reached out to me. We skyped between a matinee and an evening show. I had gone to a coffee to Skype Ryan Cooler. It was crazy. We just talked. I loved Creed. We talked about that and everything and he was like, “I want you to do it.” He believed in me and it was an amazing experience.

Can you talk about W’Kabi and how different is he from the comic books?

Daniel Kaluuya: There are a lot of twists and turns that W’Kabi takes that he usually doesn’t take and also the relationship that he has with Okoye is different. W’Kabi is dealing with a lot of stuff, and talks about themes that we are engaging in the film. A lot of the central characters are dealing with grief and what grief means to them. Their pains informs them how they move forward.

What tribe is W’Kabi from?

Daniel Kaluuya: He’s the leader of the Border Tribe, which is the first line of defense. That’s the tribe that Klaue wiped out and his mom died as a part of it. He’s processing all of that and dealing with him wanting to avenge his pain. They are the ones that anyone who who tries to get into Wakanda will see first. They have their blankets and they are humble, but they are ready for battle.

Did you grow up reading comics and did you know about Black Panther?

Daniel Kaluuya: No, I didn’t read much about Black Panther. Comics cost money. I wasn’t really close to comics. My friends had them and I used them through them. I used to watch cartoons but I hadn’t seen Black Panther in them. I watch a lot of Dragon Ball Z. I hadn’t been exposed to Black Panther and that was the issue. I was this young guy who is of South African descent and there’s a character out there that is talking about my life. He’s talking about the themes in this and being referred to as lost. That kind of transit identity I think a lot of black people have in the western world and what that means. This film is about going to the young people and going to people growing up and saying, “This is about you. This is about stuff you care about. This guy looks like your uncle. This woman looks like your aunty.”

How was working with this enormous cast?

Daniel Kaluuya: Amazing. I remember doing the photo shoot of all of us standing there and I looked around and it was the first time I said to myself, “I can’t believe I’m in this.” To see everyone in the same room, it was the first time I met Forest. I remember when he played Idi Amin and my family is from Uganda and he killed that role. Just seeing that and the power in that room. At the premiere and on stage, it was the first time we had all been in the same place all at once. Everyone had bits and pieces in the film but we were never all together. To have “Get Out” hit theaters while we were shooting, Ryan, Michael and Lupita at different times would talk to me and say, “Are you ok?”They have all been through having their films get lots of attention. Winston Duke, and that’s my bro, he would come at me from a different perspective. Letitia Wright, who I used to do radio plays with in London back in the day, and now we’re both in Black Panther. It’s amazing.

Congrats on the Oscar nomination. How does it feel to be among that core group of nominees early in your career?

Daniel Kaluuya: I don’t know. I have to process it. The nominations just recently came out. Just listen to your gut. People are going to think I’m crazy or weird. I don’t anyone told me to do an indie horror film about interracial relationships as a way to get into Oscar conversations. That doesn’t usually happen. It’s such a relief to be recognized and let’s go. Let’s keep doing what I’m doing and let’s keep at it.

From Sicario to Get Out to Black Panther, what are you learning as an actor as you go on to your next project?

Daniel Kaluuya: The art of doing less and the confidence of simplicity. I learned that from Benecio (Del Toro) being around Sicario. Trust who you can be and you don’t have do. All of the filmmakers from the films I have done have have empowered me to do that. I trust that I can do my thing. They created the boundaries and let me play within that.

What makes you say yes to the films you are a part of?

Daniel Kaluuya: Do I want to watch it? Do my friends want to watch it? Who is the film empowering? If it’s empowering people around me, then I’m involved. Is it fun? Is it enjoyable? Is it accessible? That’s what I’m about.

What’s next for you?

Daniel Kaluuya: Widows, directed by Steve McQueen.

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