Did you watch ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’ this weekend?
BOSSIP’s Sr. Content Director Janeé Bolden spoke with ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’ writer/director Shaka King ahead of the movie’s premiere about what compelled him to make the film. He revealed that the Lucas brothers approached him with the idea a year before they started on it, but that Fred Hampton’s words really pushed him to make the film. King described the movie as the story of Fred Hampton couched within an undercover story, adding that it was a way of getting it through the industry blockades and admitting that even he was astounded they were able to say certain things.
King also spoke about how he and his producers were able to get Hampton’s family to sign off on the film by cultivating a relationship with them over the course of a year, revealing how he and producers Ryan Coogler, Zinzi Evans Coogler and Charles King never had a meeting in Chicago shorter than 8 hours long and added that Hampton’s family did their due diligence as well. Besides having a natural rapport with the family King also said timing was a key factor as all parties involved recognized that this was an opportunity for all and they all felt the urgency of now, because not only was Hollywood willing to make the movie but the filmmakers also didn’t have to compromise. King said Hampton’s family could tell from the first script they put in front of them there would be no attempts to sanitize or whitewash the politics of the Panthers.
Check out the full interview below:
BOSSIP: Why were you compelled to make this project?
Shaka King: There were a lot of things. I always come back to, it was really the thing that sealed the deal for me. The truth is the Lucas Brothers pitched me the idea a year before we did anything with it. I think the thing that sealed it after that years was reading Fred’s words. The opportunity to put forth these ideas expressed in that way, in a piece of pop culture was not something I could walk away from. This vessel that we were using, the couching a story about Fred Hampton inside a genre movie, an undercover crime film, I knew that was a way to get it through the industry blockades that existed, so that was interesting to me, but once I heard the words and realized, wait we can say that? We can say that in a major studio film. I was like we have to try.
BOSSIP: What sold Chairman Fred Hampton Jr. and Akua Njeri on this Fred Hampton project versus others that had been proposed before?
Shaka King: I think it had less to do with the project and more to do with us. First of all the moment that we finished it we came to them. We cultivated a relationship with them over a year and a half, myself, Ryan Coogler, Zinzi Evans Coogler and Charles King, and so they took that time to really, our first meeting was 12 hours. the shortest meeting we ever had in Chicago was 8 hours. So we were really really talking and they were really getting a sense of who we were. Also, they did their due diligence in terms of speaking to people who knew us. I think getting a clear sense of our intentions helped and I think it also helped they had a lot of respect for Ryan, being a child of the Bay Area, who has family members who were Panthers, having met Chairman Fred Hampton Jr. before in the Bay Area in the streets at a market. Chairman was handing flyers out at. They had a natural rapport that went a long way to solidifying that relationship. Also I think it was timing. They recognized that this was an opportunity with Ryan coming off the heels of he biggest black movie of all time, it was like okay it’s right NOW! For all of us it was the urgency of now. This is a rare window when not only is Hollywood willing to make this movie but we don’t have to compromise at all.
It was no thought of compromising the politics of this film. The how we told it? Yeah that could shift. But the politics, we had to be truthful and honor those. They could tell from the first script we put in front of them there would be no attempt to sanitize the politics or whitewash the politics of the Panthers.
Shaka King did an incredible job with this film, and all the actors involved were phenomenal. If you haven’t seen the film yet, we urge you to watch it.