It’s been an incredible ride for Daniel Kaluuya. A year ago, the 28-year-old British actor was best known for his performance in a celebrated episode of “Black Mirror,” an appearance that aired before the series moved to Netflix where its popularity boomed. A year ago, Jordan Peele‘s “Get Out” had premiered as a sneak at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and, while it looked like a surefire hit, no one thought it would become a box office and cultural phenomenon. 10 months ago Peele and the movie were being discussed as longshot Best Picture and Best Director nominees, but there was barely a peep about Kaluuya’s name in the conversation for Best Actor. A lot can change in a year.
Today, Kaluuya is a first-time SAG Awards, Golden Globe, BAFTA and, now, Oscar nominee. As he celebrates the kudos that come with a nomination, he also finds himself starring in an expected blockbuster, Ryan Coogler‘s “Black Panther.” Kaluuya plays W’Kabi, a close confidant of the Black Panther, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), and a prominent figure in the border tribe, one of five tribes that have formed a sometimes uneasy alliance over Wakanda’s history. And the expected Marvel Studios blockbuster isn’t the only highly anticipated film on Kaluuya upcoming slate. Later this year, he’ll star in Steve McQueen‘s “Widows” alongside Viola Davis, Carrie Coon and Michelle Rodriguez, among others.
On this afternoon Kaluuya, like many of his co-stars, was still recovering from the massive “Black Panther” world premiere the night before. He reflected on the realization of the Oscar nomination finally hitting home, the week McQueen and Coogler both reached out to him, the dynamics of “Black Panther” and more.
How was the premiere last night? Did you have fun?
I was out later than I should have been. It was 12:51. I was like, “It’s 12:51? Where did the time go? How long was that film?” Everything just zipped by. I kind of thought it was like 10. I was like, “Why did the music stop?” But it was 10.
This the best movie premiere you’ve attended so far?
It’s vibes, because Snoop Dogg was there (Laughs.). I was just trying to make sure my people were having a good time. There were loads of people I was talking to. It was vibes man. It was vibes.
The last time we talked was at this fantastic art exhibition for “Get Out.” At the time you were in the conversation for a Best Actor nomination, but even the SAG nomination hadn’t happened yet. What was your reaction when you heard you were nominated for an Academy Award?
“Oh, what is this.” I was in LA and its as 5:30 AM and it was like 4 PM when I finally went “(let’s out deep breathe).” It kind of hit me. It’s fucking wild man. It still doesn’t feel real. I feel like it’s going to change my life, but I just don’t know how it’s going to change my lie. [And the premiere] was the first time I’ve been out in public because it just came out last Tuesday. I was like, “Oh, wow. This is a thing.” It hasn’t been a whirlwind but kind of a daze thinking about what’s possible.
The rest of your year is sort of incredible. “Black Panther” opens in two weeks and is gonna make a ton of money and the reviews are going to be stellar. And you’re in Steve McQueen’s “Widows” which will come this fall and seems like one of those high profile films that will be at every festival? Do you even know what you want to do next?
I think I know what to do next. Listen, I did this because I believe in all these projects. It’s like I don’t think of the success or accolades. I don’t think that should be my thought process when I decide what to do. It’s like, “Do I believe in it? Do my friends believe in it?” And some of my friends are not in the industry, but some of the biggest cinephiles I’ve ever been around. I mean, all this enriches what I say yes too. I mean it’s just my world and it’s kind of like just trying to be a student. Still watching films. Still watching shorts. Reading scripts. You just enjoy it. And either you like it or you don’t like it. If I did it because I liked it and no one else liked it, I like it.