Three litres of Supermalt could not quench the thirst I have for Daniel Kaluuya. Watching my MCM receive an Oscar for his performance in Judas and the Black Messiah, I finally understood what it was like to be 13 and in love with a One Direction member or crush on the two younger Jonas Brothers (sorry Kevin). This infatuation is all-consuming and who can blame me? The man oozes sauce from his poreless skin. He’s the epitome of ‘smooth with it.’ Come and see drip, come and see swag! But above all, he’s one of the greatest actors of our generation.
Many of us were introduced to an 18-year-old Daniel in his role as the formidable Posh Kenneth, a black boy who spoke in slang to disguise his middle-class status, in E4’s iconic teen drama Skins. Memorable even then as a secondary character, he also turned his hand to writing – penning a couple of Skins episodes for the same series. This led to more TV appearances including the iconic talent show episode of Black Mirror, ‘Fifteen Million Merits’, and Kick-Ass 2. But his breakout performance came in 2016 with Jordan Peele’s Get Out. This was when I knew my guy was different.
For me, Get Out is where the imaginary love affair I have with this man began. Dragging my brother along to our local Cineworld hoping that he would subtly pick up on the messaging in the movie, I underestimated its brilliance. From when the film began I was transfixed by this man, guzzling Tango ice blast in a vain attempt to lower my rising temperatures. Why do I feel like I’m experiencing the tension alongside him as if we are in the same room? How does he communicate so much with facial expressions alone? The impact was lost on my brother… his dating choices still lack diversity, but I on the other hand left the screening a changed woman. And more importantly – a taken woman.
His choice of subsequent Hollywood roles has been flawless, exploring societal issues, Afrofuturism and appearing in Black Panther, Queen & Slim and Widows, all of which received critical acclaim. Hunter Harris at Vulture wrote that his performance in Widows made her fantasize about being robbed by him. The subtleties of his performances are what make his roles so memorable. His eyes are a novel. His gaze can quickly switch between threatening, fearful and compassionate. In Get Out the standout scene is his descent into the sunken place – eyes wide as tears silently stream down his cheeks. In Steve McQueen’s Widows, Daniel intimidates his victims as mob enforcer Jatemme, forcing them to rap while he stares them down menacingly from centimetres away — a moment that still leaves my mouth wide open to this day. Lastly, in Queen & Slim, (let’s just ignore the film receiving *ahem* mixed reviews for a minute), Daniel delivers an exceptional performance as he goes on the run with Queen. I don’t blame her for risking it all. I would too. That slow smile? I’d go anywhere. No questions asked.
His identity as a black Brit has become a constant source of discussion, starting with Samuel L. Jackson criticising the casting of British actors in American films, vocally wondering what an “American brother” would have brought to the roles Daniel has played. However, the buzz around Daniel is not happening because he’s “cheaper” to hire, it’s because he’s serving up historic roles every five minutes and me, myself I am hungry. “I’m a vessel for a spirit that is going through me,” Daniel has responded. “It’s important for us as Black people across the diaspora to be together. And that’s not to discount what Black Americans feel, what they’ve been through.”
Mr Kaluuya is global and yet local. His meticulous study and natural talent for accents allows you to forget that for the duration of the film, our G is from Camden. In spirit though, he’s unapologetically a North Londoner, one “innit black” babe as Black Twitter USA would describe him. He’s one of the lads – this is clear in his recent videos with the prestigious Dark Skin Society (his friendship group of Black British entertainers including Dave, Giggs and Damson Idris) and his constant embraces of his Black peers on the red carpet. His sense of humour is wild but there’s a humility and cultural understanding to him that warms the heart and means you back him like one of your own boys. He could cause a small ruckus in the pub but I just know that he will greet my mum properly and call her auntie. A multi-faceted babe. I screamed as he discussed his parents’ sex life up on the stage while his mum sat there screwfaced. “You got to celebrate life, man! We’re breathing, walking, it’s incredible. It’s incredible. Like, it’s incredible,” he told the audience. “My mom met dad, they had sex. It’s amazing.” My mother in law never expected it.
In a video, while holding his award, the actor can be heard saying: “the journey is the goal, this is just a checkpoint”. Dear Daniel, from Posh Kenneth to Oscar winner, it’s been a pleasure to watch you speed ahead. Just text me when you’re back Zaddy, and we’ll go up Shoreditch.