The Oscar winner had become “disillusioned” with the industry — and then Jordan Peele came calling.
Daniel Kaluuya’s stardom was almost over before we knew it. In a cover story for Essence, the Oscar-winning actor talked with director Jordan Peele and admitted that before Peele offered him his breakout role in Get Out, Kaluuya’s first lead role ever, he had stopped acting and was ready to quit the industry.
“I've never told you this, but when you reached out to me and we had that Skype, I was really disillusioned with acting. I had stopped acting for like a year and a half,” he said to Peele in the interview. Kaluuya added, “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, Okay, I'm not crazy. It’s proper. It's going to be all right.”
Peele had seen Kaluuya in an episode of Black Mirror and was blown away, prompting him to reach out to the actor. Kaluuya’s starring role in Get Out, of course, made him a star and earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor, an award that he would win just three years later for his part as Fred Hampton in Judas and the Black Messiah. Yet, Kaluuya’s struggles as a Black actor at the time were largely par for the course, according to Peele.
“It's wild because even while making a movie in 2016, we were looking for a lead Black actor and realized there's not a lot who have been given opportunities to be the lead of a film,” Peele said. “I was just so thrilled to realize what the rest of the world considers a very small pool. I had at least one of the best actors I'd ever seen in my movie, and from the very beginning I was like, this is how — when you have a script that's good, and you get an actor like this, who has done work but has untapped potential and an untapped trust put into him — you get something special.”
Kaluuya and Peele have teamed up again for the director’s third, highly anticipated film, Nope, which Peele calls a “Black UFO movie.” The film comes out July 22.