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Actor Lakeith Stanfield Talks “Judas And The Black Messiah” Hugging Trees, And More

Actor Lakeith Stanfield Talks “Judas And The Black Messiah” Hugging Trees, And More

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Lately, Lakeith Stanfield has been using breathing exercises to help find calm when he feels overwhelmed. “You inhale for 10 seconds, hold it for 10 seconds, then exhale for 10 seconds,” Lakeith Stanfield, 29, says to WSJ. Magazine while demonstrating with an audible breath in and out. “It helps take your mind off of stuff, to focus on your breathing. I get overwhelmed with these interviews, I’ll tell you. But I figured out a way to make it work.”

This month, Stanfield—who’s known for his roles in movies like “Get Out,” “Sorry to Bother You” and “Uncut Gems,” as well as the FX show “Atlanta” — stars in “Judas and the Black Messiah.” The movie, directed by Shaka King, centers on Stanfield’s William O’Neal, the FBI informant who infiltrated the Black Panther Party in Chicago in the late 1960s and whose work with the bureau eventually led to the assassination of Illinois chapter chairman Fred Hampton (played by Daniel Kaluuya). He’s hoping viewers treat his character kindly. “I’d like it if audiences came with an open mind, without judgment, just like I had to do when I was going into being O’Neal,” Lakeith Stanfield says to WSJ. Magazine, “so you can really ingest it and be honest in your assessment.”

Here, Lakeith Stanfield talks to WSJ. more about the role, as well as the at-home spa treatment he’s gotten into during the pandemic.

Here are some of what Lekeith Stanfield revealed to WSJ. Magazine…

What time do you get up on Mondays, and what’s the first thing you do?

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Photo: Taylor Miller

I’d say somewhere around 7 [or] 8 a.m. I’ll go shower, brush my teeth, wash my face, and typically I’m looking at my phone at that point, if not before that. I’ll go through emails, check emails. Respond, sometimes not respond, depending on my mood. Pretty boring stuff. I’ve incorporated yoga lately into my routine. And then we hit the streets.

What kind of yoga are you doing?

I’m really a beginner, so I downloaded an app called Lotus Yoga and they walk me through these beginner poses.

Is there a time of day or the week when you’re most creative?

Night, when the night falls, the freaks come out.

Do you set aside a specific time to brainstorm or reflect?

Not really, but every day is different. I do therapy now two times a week, so that’s kind of a meditative thing, a sort of reflection.

In Judas and the Black Messiah, what was it like to play an informant, a character some people might see as a traitor?

Challenging. It was hard to get into a character that is so opposite of what I consider myself to be. [The most important thing] was not letting my biases and judgments get in the way. That way when people watch it, they can [hopefully] watch him a little bit freer of judgment.

I read the experience gave you panic attacks at some points.

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Photo: David Urbanke

It did. I just ran out of my trailer to breathe for a second and find my center. It was freaky. It was the first time I’d had panic attacks.

What was the best part of being on set for that movie?

The best part was seeing all these Black people with Afros love each other and giving love. Everyone’s happy to help tell the story. It’s just beautifully Black. I like that.

Have you learned anything new about yourself during the pandemic?

I learn stuff every day. I learned how to do a foot peel, where you soak your feet in the water and put something else in there and then a couple of days later, your feet are all soft. It’s quite nice. I never really knew about those before. Now my feet are all soft.

Is there a particular brand you use?

No, a friend got it for me. They were really trying to press me to do a foot peel—not because my feet are extra crispy—I don’t know, maybe that is why. So I did it, and it was great. My feet were soft to the touch.

Have you been reading or watching anything good lately?

Not really. I don’t watch that much stuff. I’ve really just been spending a lot of time outside in my backyard [in Los Angeles]. I’ve got a lot of greenery, so I’ve just been looking at trees and playing with plants and stuff. They’re pretty soothing, you know?

Do you garden?

Not really, but I love plants and vegetation. I spend a lot of time out there. They’re like beautiful organic friends. Sometimes you want to hug them. And also, they’re good apartment complexes for squirrels. The squirrels here love the trees. They jump from branch to branch and fight each other and still maintain balance. It’s impressive.

Do you ever talk to plants? I’ve read that’s good for them.

Yeah, I talk to them. I say, “How you doing, man? It’s good to see you. How long have you been here? Oh, really? Dang.” But they usually don’t say anything back, so I just leave them alone.

They usually don’t say anything back?

Well, they do if I do a psychotropic, like if I take mushrooms or something, then they’ll talk back.

What kinds of things have they told you?

“Hey, man, how’s it going? I’m your friend. I can be really scary too. Or I can be your friend. Either way, there’s nothing to be afraid of.”

Besides yoga, are there any other things you do for exercise?

I’ll do some push-ups, little crunchies, sit-ups. Sometimes I’ll jog around the block a little bit. I live in some hills. It gets kind of hard jogging up hills—sometimes the air up here’s thin. I try to [be] a little active every day. Do some stretches, drink some water.

What are you most excited to do when things start to go back to “normal?”

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Photo: Ryan Pfluger

There’s a part of me that hopes things never start to go back to normal. I hate this pandemic, but normal was annoying. I hope things get fantastically and exponentially better. When that happens, I’m going to go walk outside and go stand next to somebody and give them a hug or something.

It’s been reported that Atlanta is coming back this year. Have you started shooting?

If we did, I wouldn’t tell you. But I love that show. I can’t wait to get back to work and bring it to the world.

Have you missed [your Atlanta character] Darius?

Not really. Darius is within me. He’s always here. In fact, you might be talking to him right now. [Laughs.]

Am I?

That’s up to God to tell you. But I do know one thing. I’m excited for the show.

Read the full Lakeith Stanfield interview on WSJ. Magazine here.


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