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‘Sometimes Your Body Thinks That’s Real, Everything You’re Putting It Through’: LaKeith Stanfield Says His Role in ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’ Took a Toll on His Mental Health

Not even a full week has passed since audiences began to watch the film “Judas and the Black Messiah” starring Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield, but already the actors’ performances have captivated many.

The film follows FBI informant William O’Neal, played by Stanfield, as he infiltrates the Black Panther Party to aide the FBI with the 1969 assassination of Fred Hampton, portrayed by Kaluuya. However, playing the role of an enemy in disguise took its toll on Stanfield. The malleable actor, who has had roles in the series “Atlanta,” and movies such as “Sorry to Bother You” and “Get Out,” says portraying O’Neal was his most difficult role thus far.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – FEBRUARY 12: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Lakeith Stanfield attends BuzzFeed’s “AM To DM” on February 12, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Dominik Bindl/Getty Images)

“It was tough making this one. Definitely the toughest I’ve done,” he told the Chicago Tribune.

While preparing for the role, Stanfield delved into research of the Black Panther Party and Hampton. He also watched an unedited version of the documentary “Eyes on the Prize,” a documentary where real-life O’Neal lays out his involvement in the assassination of 21-year-old Hampton.

“At one point he [O’Neal] says he felt bad about some of the things he did. And once I saw that conflict within him, and saw he had a deeper understanding of some of the things he’d done, I wanted to take that to the forefront,” explained Stanfield. As the movie inched closer to the assassination, Stanfield’s mannerisms became obviously more paranoid and riddled with anxiety, especially when his character was tasked with poisoning Hampton.

“With somebody like Daniel, who I just respect as a human and an artist, as Fred Hampton, it felt like I was actually poisoning Chairman Fred Hampton… So, sometimes your body thinks that’s real, everything you’re putting it through,” explained Stanfield during an interview with Vulture.

While the 29-year-old actor gave the role of O’Neal all he had, the toll it took on him gave him perspective on preparing for future roles.

“With that role, I definitely should’ve done some exercises — some meditation, and some therapy — in order to prepare. And now, moving forward, I will.”

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