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‘I Checked Out’: Daniel Kaluuya Says Racism and Lack of Roles Nearly Ended His Acting Career 

Daniel Kaluuya almost gave up on his dream of acting.

The British born actor is known for his U.S. breakout role in “Get Out” and his Oscar-winning performance in “Judas and the Black Messiah.” His talent and seemingly fast-track to stardom makes it hard to imagine there was a time when Kaluuya had turned his back on the craft.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 26: Daniel Kaluuya attends the 2022 BET Awards at Microsoft Theater on June 26, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for BET)

“I’ve never told you this, but when you reached out to me and we had that Skype, I was really disillusioned with acting,” Kaluuya said to “Get Out” director Jordan Peele. The two collaborators are featured in the July digital issue of Essence magazine.

“I had stopped acting for like a year and a half,” continued Kaluuya. “I checked out, because I was just like, this isn’t working. I wasn’t getting roles, because racism and all this kind of stuff — so you reaching out was like, ‘OK, I’m not crazy. It’s proper. It’s going to be all right.'”

From there, Kaluuya, 33, went on to star in the critically acclaimed “Queen & Slim” and “Black Panther.” Peele, who began his career in comedy, has said the actor is what Robert De Niro was to director Martin Scorsese. “We do have a bond,” Peele told Empire magazine. “The first big movie he was a lead in, and my directorial debut, was ‘Get Out.’ And we bonded because we went through that together,” he said.

This past March, Kaluuya sparked a flood of reactions after reports claimed he fired his entire team of agents, publicists, stylists and assistants. In their place, it was believed that Kaluuya hired “life strategist” Heir Holiness.

Kaluuya is currently starring in “Nope” alongside actress Keke Palmer. The film marks Peele’s third thriller placing Black actors as the lead. “It’s so tricky being considered in the vanguard of Black horror, because obviously Black horror is so very real, and it’s hard to do it in a way that’s not re-traumatizing and sad,” Peele told Essence. 

He continued, “I was going into my third horror film starring Black leads, and somewhere in the process I realized that the movie had to be about Black joy as well, in order to fit what the world needs at this moment. So that is part of why there’s sort of a spectrum of tonality of genre in here, because I wanted to give the horror, but I also wanted to give our characters agency and adventure and hope and joy and fun that they deserve.”

“Nope” hits theaters July 22.

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