YOU (South Africa)
DAN’S THE MAN!
SAY the name Daniel Kaluuya and many people will likely have a slight frown as they try to place him. His name may not be a household one yet but it’s just a matter of time. Because as anyone who knows anything about these things will tell you: this is a guy whose star is on the rise.
Fans will never forget his mesmerising performance in the horror film Get Out, nor the film poster of him with eyes wide open, tears rolling down his stricken face.
Many more will remember him as fierce and conflicted W’kabi in Marvel’s Black Panther, a role in which he went from friend to foe of T’Challa (played by the late Chadwick Boseman).
Now Daniel is once again tipped for Oscar glory for his role as political activist Fred Hampton in the biopic Judas and the Black Messiah. He’s charismatic and hypnotic as the leader who is murdered and the part has already filled his mantelpiece with awards.
His role as Hampton, who died at age 21 in an FBI raid, has earned him his second Oscar nomination – his first was for Get Out – and it’s already earned him a Golden Globe Award and a Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Award, which he dedicated to his late friend Chadwick.
As one of a new generation of leading men, Daniel (32) knew the point at which he was famous. “People started knowing how to pronounce my surname. Like, how has that happened?” he told GQ magazine.
Not too shabby for the son of Ugandan immigrants who grew up in a housing estate in North London, with little interest in acting. Oh, and his surname, in case you don’t yet know, is pronounced, “Kuh-loo-yah”.
DANIEL was born in London to Stephen Kaluuya and Damalie Namusoke.
His parents split up while Damalie was pregnant with Daniel and his early life with his schoolteacher mom wasn’t easy. “We lived in hostels until I was two years old, and then she got a home in Camden, where I grew up. She was on benefits for a long while, which is what Americans call welfare,” he told Vice.com.
“Now, she works for a special-needs school in Camden, which is the biggest drug market in Europe. It was where the Sex Pistols were born, as well as punk. Amy Winehouse lived there. It can be quite a dark place, because there are loads of drugs and all the drugs went into homes.”
Daniel hasn’t had contact with his father, who, according to the UK Mirror, is “desperate” to meet his son.
Daniel’s foray into the world of acting wasn’t as a result of his love for drama. He was a boisterous young boy and one of his primary school teachers noted he was a “very busy child”. She suggested Damalie send Daniel for acting lessons as an outlet for his excess energy.
“So, I wrote a play,” he told the New York Times. “The teacher said I was difficult, and I thought, ‘I’ll show you’.”
The play won a local competition and was performed at the Hampstead Theatre, where he’d later perform as a teenager.
The British actor is fast becoming one of the standout stars of his generation – and is tipped for Oscar glory, again
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But after his initial playwriting triumph at age nine, he dropped theatre for soccer, and a few years would pass before he got back into acting through improvisation classes at the Anna Scher Theatre, a neighbourhood institution that offered inexpensive drop-in sessions.
Daniel embraced the improv classes. “Being young, working class and black, everything you do is policed. If someone hits you and you hit back, you’re aggressive. If you cry, you’re weak. You’re kind of always pretending to be something. But in those improv classes, there was no pressure to be anything except honest, and that made me happy.”
As his fellow students began getting parts on TV shows, he started going to auditions. His TV breakthrough came with two roles in the BBC series Skins – as an actor and as part of the writing team for the show, even as he was completing his final year of high school.
He couldn’t afford to study drama at university, so he kept writing for Skins, did theatre work and landed roles in several popular TV shows, including Doctor Who, Psychoville and Inspector Lewis.
HOLLYWOOD beckoned when Daniel realised there wasn’t enough work for him in the UK.
“I was going for a lot of stuff [in England], butI wasn’t getting roles because of the colour of my skin. It wasn’t fair,” he told the UK’s Sunday Times in 2019.
“It was a trap. For example, I went up for this show. It was 10 rounds of auditions. There was me and a white guy for the lead. It was about aliens.
“And I realised as I was going to one audition that the other guy had been given an acting coach. They didn’t love me like they loved him.
“And this is no joke. This is my life. This is a job.
“In any other profession, that would be weird, but it was accepted in mine. It happened a few times, and I went, ‘Nah. I’m not an idiot.’”
His first Hollywood role was in the 2015 thriller Sicario, in which he played an FBI agent whose partner, played by Emily Blunt, becomes entangled in America’s shadowy war on drugs.
Then came Get Out and his first Oscar nomination – which he hoped would impress his mom, who still wasn’t convinced he should be making a career out of acting.
“Has she changed her mind since then? Nope!” he told NME magazine.
“The thing is, actors are always freelancers. There’s an inconsistency that makes her uncomfortable. There are times when I need to not work for a while, and that’s just worrying for a mom to hear.
“I think she saw the Oscar nomination as like getting a Masters [degree]. No one says, ‘Well done, you’ve got your degree, you’re done now.’ It’s, ‘So what are you gonna do with it now?’ ”
When he heard he’d been nominated the first time, he called his mother, who said, “Congratulations. I hope it helps you find another job.”
There’s certainly no shortage of work for Daniel these days.
He’ll return to Wakanda for the Black Panther sequel, and is set to reunite with Get Out director Jordan Peele for a new horror movie.
He and his girlfriend, actress and producer Amandla Crichlow, are producing a big-screen adaptation of Barney, the beloved purple dinosaur known to kids around the world.
“Barney taught us, ‘I love you, you love me. Won’t you say you love me too?’ That’s one of the first songs I remember, and what happens when that isn’t true? I thought that was really heartbreaking,” he says.
“I have no idea why, but it feels like that makes sense.
“It feels like there’s something unexpected that can be poignant but optimistic. Especially at this time now, I think that’s really, really needed.”
I WASN’T GETTING ROLES BECAUSE OF THE COLOUR OF MY SKIN. IT WASN’T FAIR