In the span of just the last 8 years, Lakeith Stanfield's already appeared in more than 25 feature films and several tv series and music videos. His performance as FBI informant William O'Neal in the blistering based-on-real-life "Judas and the Black Messiah" is exceptional. He is the star on the rise, and we're happy to highlight him as the last icon in our series for Black History Month.
How You Know Him
He's currently starring as the conflicted informant William O'Neal opposite Daniel Kaluuya's impassioned Black Panther Fred Hampton in "Judas and the Black Messiah." He also had a key role alongside Kaluuya in Jordan Peele's breakout hit "Get Out."
Stanfield is a great character actor and leading man who's able to cover a wide range of roles. He was Detective Lieutenant Eliot in "Knives Out." He was the hustler Demany in "Uncut Gems." He was the lead character hawking a "white voice" as a telemarketer, Cassius "Cash" Green in Boots Riley's fantastic, fantastical "Sorry to Bother You." He was a romantic photographer alongside Issa Rae in "The Photograph."
He was also the real-life activist Jimmy Lee Jackson in "Selma," the dangerous Bug in "Dope," and he played rapper Snoop Dogg in "Straight Outta Compton." Since 2016, he's been one of the stars on tv in Donald Glover's acclaimed series "Atlanta."
He also plays in a band called Moors.
At age 29, Stanfield is most definitely an overachiever.
Their Life So Far
Born in San Bernardino, California, Lakeith grew up poor in Riverside and Victorville, and decided to become an actor after joining his high school's drama club. He attended the John Casablancas Modeling and Career Center in Los Angeles, and auditioned early on for commercials.
At age 18, he appeared in the 2009 short film "Short Term 12," which won the Jury Award at the Sundance Film Festival. He would later co-star in the feature length version of the short, which featured rising stars Brie Larson (in her first lead role) and Rami Malek. This version of "Short Term 12" won the Grand Jury Prize at SXSW in 2013.
Follow-up roles in "The Purge: Anarchy" and "Selma" led to larger and larger character appearances in "Dope," "Straight Outta Compton," "Snowden," Brad Pitt's "War Machine," Rian Johnson's ingenious mystery thriller "Knives Out," the Safdie Brothers intense "Uncut Gems," and that minor, key appearance in "Get Out." At the same time, Stanfield landed his role on "Atlanta" playing Darius Epps, a quirky gun enthusiast and right-hand man for local rapper Paper Boi.
Lead roles on the big screen have also followed, with Stanfield acquitting himself well in "Sorry to Bother You" and "The Photograph." Right now, he's making waves as the co-lead in "Judas and the Black Messiah," one of the best films of the year.
The Movie to Watch
"Sorry to Bother You" is a totally bonkers comedy social drama in the best way. Writer-director Boots Riley creates a telemarketer world that at first looks and feels real, and allows Lakeith Stanfield's normal joe to dig into his "white voice" (provided here by David Cross) to get ahead. As he does, the story becomes increasingly bizarre, and takes a swift turn into surreal fantasy territory, making some prescient points about inequity and the levers of power along the way. It must be seen to be believed, and is hilarious and harrowing at the same time. Stanfield at the center is a hero worth cheering.
What's Up Next
We can't wait to see Lakeith Stanfield as western outlaw Cherokee Bill, part of the ensemble in the upcoming "The Harder They Fall," which finds Jonathan Majors as Nat Love, putting his old gang back together to track down his parents' killers. Also co-starring in the film are Idris Elba, Regina King, Delroy Lindo and Zazie Beetz. The film will be coming to Netflix later in 2021.
More Black History Month Highlights:
About the Author
Chuck is an editor/writer who's worked for NCM, Fandango, Movies.com, MediaTrip, Hollywood.com and Newsweek. His favorite movie is "Jaws." He's definitely a dog guy.