Judas and The Black Messiah: Panel Discussion

Noah Hogan | Staff Writer

Saturday, Feb. 6, The Hampton Script was given the opportunity to participate in a roundtable discussion for the upcoming film “Judas and The Black Messiah.” 

Set in the late sixties to early seventies, the film follows the life of Chairman Fred Hampton and the Illinois chapter of The Black Panther Party. 

With Judas and the Black Messiah affording such a young and dynamic cast of black actors and actresses such as Daniel Kaluuya, Lakeith Stanfield, Dominique Fishback and more, the opportunity was not only a showcase of their talents, but a continuation of the fight and legacy of Fred Hampton and the Black Panther Party at large. 

The respect and admiration that each cast member showed for one of our fallen heroes in Fred Hampton was beautiful. 

During the panel discussion, I presented the question, “If Fred was not assassinated as young as he was, what do you believe he could have accomplished?” Dominique Fishback (Deborha Johnson) responded, “Sad to say for myself, I don’t know if my imagination can go as big and as wide at this point in my life to think of what Chairman Fred Hampton could have done. He was so forward thinking and was at least 50 years ahead of his time. I wouldn’t even want to sell him short with a limited idea I can think of.”

Another point of discussion was how a traumatic film such as Judas and the Black Messiah personally affected each actor. When asked if he struggled with the dichotomy of his character, Lakeith Stanfield (William O’neal) explained, “Yeah it’s a bit of a challenge, but that’s part of what it means to accurately portray someone. Sometimes you have to go outside yourself a little bit so yeah, it was a challenge, but once I got there, I developed an appreciation for characters like William O’neal.”

A common message amongst the cast was to highlight a piece of black history that is relatively misunderstood and forgotten. Numerous members used the word “blessed” to describe the feeling of working on a project in which they brought to life the love and passion for the community that the Black Panther Party represented on a daily basis. 

Caption: (L-r) DARRELL BRITT-GIBSON as Bobby Rush, DANIEL KALUUYA as Chairman Fred Hampton, ALGEE SMITH as Jake Winters, ASHTON SANDERS as Jimmy Palmer and DOMINIQUE THORNE as Judy Harmon in Warner Bros. Pictures’ “JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo Credit: Glen Wilson

The panel discussion itself was not limited to dialogue only concerning the psychology of characters or the actors unique motivation, but the actual real world implications the film had on them and what were some of the deeper topics that can start to create conversations amongst African American youth. 

When asked about how do you believe that you and your castmates’ representation in a film such as Judas and the Black Messiah can affect college students across the world, Hamptonian Darrell Britt-Gibson (Bobby Rush) said, “I hope that this film is able to start the conversation that will lead to the tangible change that we so desire and that we seek on a daily basis as both black men and women.”

The biggest takeaway from the panel discussion was that every actor wanted to be a part of something bigger than themselves, each cast member made it apparent that they wanted to accurately portray the mission of racial pride and economic empowerment amongst the black community.  

When asked if he felt that this was his opportunity to showcase a prominent black hero just as his colleague Chadwick Boseman, Gibson answered, “Yeah when I read the script and realized what he said and how he thought, I was like wow,  I wanna be a vessel for this. This is what I’m here for. I feel like my career has been leading to this if I am being brutally honest. Anything I do for me is like who am I empowering ? Who am I making feel good?” As Black History month begins, Judas and The Black Messiah will educate, enlighten, serve as a pivotal piece in black culture for years to come.

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