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Daniel Kaluuya: 'People know how to pronounce my surname'
Daniel Kaluuya: 'People know how to pronounce my surname'
It was only recently, says GQ Actor Of The Year Daniel Kaluuya, that several things have really sunk in
 
     
 
It was only last Saturday, he says, months after the ceremony itself, that it really sunk in he’d been nominated for an Academy Award for Get Out, Jordan Peele’s indie horror-comedy about race that suddenly became a cultural touchstone, scoring four Oscar nominations and becoming the highest-grossing film by a debut writer and director of an original screenplay in American history. It happened, Kaluuya says, while he was driving. “It’s like, only now can I talk about it and actually realise it. I was in the car and I was like, bro, an Oscar? For Get Out? It was just a moment. Like, what the fuck?”
 
It was only a couple of months ago, meanwhile, that he realised, “Huh, I think I might be quite famous now,” something people could have told him after he starred in Black Panther, Marvel’s transformative all-black (plus Martin Freeman...) superhero film, which stuck a finger up to the lie that a big action film with an all-black cast wouldn’t be profitable by becoming the ninth highest-grossing movie of all time.
 
People started knowing how to pronounce my surname. How has that happened
 
During filming, co-star Michael B Jordan told him as much, saying, “Your life is about to change.” But, Kaluuya says, he didn’t really take that in either.
 
“Until literally two months ago. I’ve been rejecting it all that time. And he told me in March last year!”
 
And why two months ago?
 
“Because it got quiet again.”
 
But when Kaluuya finally knew something had changed – beyond being recognised in the street and beyond being asked for signatures and selfies – the one thing that finally tipped him over the edge was actually fairly simple.
 
Kaluuya smiles. “People started knowing how to pronounce my surname. Like, how has that happened?”
 
For the record, the 29-year-old’s surname is heavy on the “u”s and pronounced Kuh-loo-yuh. It’s worth familiarising yourself with.
 
Read more at: Daniel Kaluuya: 'People know how to pronounce my surname'
 
Kaluuya pronounced Kuh-loo-yuh
Kaluuya pronounced Kuh-loo-yuh
For the record, the 29-year-old’s surname is heavy on the “u”s and pronounced Kuh-loo-yuh.
 
It was two years ago now, when Kaluuya was doing a play called Blue/Orange at London’s Young Vic, when he first got the call from Jordan Peele.
 
Get Out was a serious film about American race relations (Kaluuya’s character, a photographer, spends an awkward weekend with his white girlfriend’s well-meaning parents), but it was funny too. It was a terrifying horror (spoilers: there’s a group of old people who steal young black men’s bodies by hypnotising them) that had a deeper message about race and culture. (The victims remain alive but with their consciousnesses banished to “the sunken place”, an all-purpose metaphor for a system that silences the voices of minorities. They’re there, but also they’re not.)
 
 
Kaluuya laughed at the idea that it would even get made, 'Get Out'
Kaluuya laughed at the idea that it would even get made, 'Get Out'
'Get Out'
 
When he read the script, Kaluuya laughed at the idea that it would even get made.
 
“I think it was the part when he was covered in blood, and the house is burning, and everyone’s dead, and the police come, and I’m saying, ‘I didn’t do anything!’” says Kaluuya, laughing. “Like, that is wild, bro.”
 
His audition was the now-famous scene where he is hypnotised and, while perfectly still, two tears silently fall down his face. Peele later said he virtually decided right then and there to give up his own acting ambitions: because, really, what was the point?
 
For the shoot itself, Kaluuya eventually did five takes and, on cue, the tears arrived at the exact same point each time.
 
 
Kaluuya delivers a mini acting masterclass
Kaluuya, who grew up in Camden, North Londonn
Kaluuya, who grew up in Camden, North Londonn
That’s perhaps surprising is that Kaluuya, who grew up in Camden, North London, says he was a “busy” kid and was nudged towards acting to sap his restless energy. Or, as he puts it, “My girlfriend thinks I have ADD. I think I was just hyper. I’m quite hyper, quite a hyperactive dude at times. Yet I can be very still.”
 
If anything, it’s this stillness that defines him, and not just when he’s pretending to be hypnotised. It’s more a stillness that manages to convey a torrent of the unsayable, but from someone who can’t say it.
 
“You know, someone said that to me the other day, about the stillness. I think it is probably cos there’s something happening underneath, you know? That’s the conflict, isn’t it? It’s like...”
 
And at this point, Kaluuya delivers a mini acting masterclass. He goes to speak, then doesn’t, then does it again, then stays silent. Then he simply stares a little, not long, not menacingly, but enough to make it momentarily uncomfortable, his face pitched somewhere between anguish and sadness, those huge expressive eyes – so devastatingly deployed in Get Out’s advertising campaign – somehow managing to portray something both horrific and yet melancholic at the same time.
 
 
Kaluuya: "racism isn’t funny"
Kaluuya: 'Racism isn’t funny'
"racism isn’t funny"
 
Kaluuya has said that Peele wrote Get Out as a retort to the idea that racism had been solved because Barack Obama was president. I ask if he feels that is particularly prescient considering what has happened in America since. He responds with a ready-made metaphor as an answer.
 
You know, he says, those people who get famous and then change? Well, it’s not that they changed. It’s more that they’re just allowed to be who they are, you know? This, he says, is what’s happening with America: more people are allowed to be who they are.
 
People often say to him, “Why did you make Get Out funny? Racism isn’t funny,” which, of course, he finds particularly funny – someone explaining what racism is to him and how funny a horror-comedy about racism is allowed to be.
 
“Like, all right, police. Where’s the law that says what it should and shouldn’t be?”
 
 
People on my team knew what was happening. It’s “melanin” politics
People on my team knew what was happening. It’s 'melanin' politics
He’s always been particularly appreciative when people cast him, because, the way he tells it, it’s often a fight
 
Kaluuya has become – more through fate than judgment – something of a lightning rod for all manner of arguments concerning race in cinema, not least when Samuel L Jackson suggested that Kaluuya, as a British actor, shouldn’t have been cast in the part of an African-American, to which Kaluuya, not unfairly, said he resented having to prove that he’s black. Besides, he says now, no one was hiring him in the UK, so where was he supposed to get parts?
 
He says he’s always been particularly appreciative when people cast him, because, the way he tells it, it’s often a fight.
 
In Sicario, for instance, “Denis Villeneuve [the director] really fought for me. It was my first American job and he really fought for me and I really appreciate it.”
 
He’s previously said he didn’t get roles in England due to “the politics of the industry”.
 
What did he mean by that?
 
He smiles a little: “What did you think I meant by that?”
 
I tell him I genuinely wasn’t quite sure.
 
“Bro, it’s the same old thing, isn’t it? I try not to talk about it, because it’s boring. It’s just boring, isn’t it? It’s just like... stuff happens here and you don’t get the roles because of...” He searches for a suitable phrase – one both unmistakable and yet un-tabloidable. “Melanin politics,” he decides. “Melinated discussion. That’s why you don’t get roles or aren’t given roles. There’s a couple of times people on my team and people behind the scenes knew what was happening. And that’s just the way it is. Like, people go, ‘If you were white, this would be happening. If you were white, that would be happening.’ But I’m not. I’m black and I’m proud.”
 
Does it still feel like that, even after an Oscar nomination and the success of Black Panther?
 
“I don’t know. I’m not sure if it happens now. I haven’t worked in England since 2015. I wouldn’t know.”
 
 
Widows
Widows
He’s always been particularly appreciative when people cast him, because, the way he tells it, it’s often a fight
 
 
In fairness, you could easily argue he no longer needs to work in England. Before he even starred in Get Out, in the course of one week last year both Ryan Coogler got in touch, to cast him in Black Panther, and Steve “12 Years A Slave” McQueen dropped him a line, for a heist movie he was putting together called Widows, which is out in November.
 
When they met, Kaluuya says, McQueen didn’t even have a particular part in mind for him, but simply decided, right there and then, that there should be.
 
“It was to talk about general stuff. And then he just looked at me and said, ‘There’s a role in this film for you. There’s a role in this film I’m doing. Do you want it?’ And I was like, ‘Uh, yeah?’” And so Kaluuya said yes, but without the faintest idea what exactly he’d said yes to. Once the role was defined, he was asked to audition for it, raising an interesting possibility.
 
And it remains, he says, despite all this – this front-cover-of-GQ-ness, this Oscar-nominated-ness, this working-with-Steve-McQueen-ness – a precarious profession. For Get Out, he points out, it was a 23-day shoot. For Black Panther, “I was on location for a couple of months.” For Widows, “Like, ten or eleven days, something like that. That’s what’s quite weird with what’s happened. Over the course of 2015 to 2018, that’s the amount of acting I was doing.”
 
His mother, he says, is therefore relentlessly practical about her son’s chosen career, even when he was unexpectedly nominated for the Oscar. Kaluuya says he was so excited after getting the news in his flat that he immediately took his top off, began pacing and didn’t put his top on again until about five hours later. “I get like that when I’m excited. I take my top off. I just felt hot, bruv, or not even hot, but, like, emotionally hot.”
 
He FaceTimed his mother and told her he was up for Best Actor along with the likes of Gary Oldman, Denzel Washington and Daniel Day-Lewis. To which his mother simply replied, “Congratulations. I hope it helps you find another job.”
 
What? Really?
 
“Oh, yeah,” he says. “It’s where I get it from, I think. Because then I thought, ‘Oh, man, yeah, it’s not work, is it?’ So, like, cool... but let’s get on with it.”
 
 
Ryan Coogler got in touch, to cast Kaluuya in Black Panther
Black Panther Is a Beautiful Showcase for Natural Hair
Black Panther Is a Beautiful Showcase for Natural Hair
 
 
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STEM oriented enterprise architecture business and data analysis methodologies to engage industry moguls in Social Media @iConversations while marketing Hair Salons and Barbershops    
 
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Technology Savvy Social Media engaging Business Moguls in
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