The 2018 BAFTA Film Awards ceremony results turned out pretty much as expected. Gary Oldman’s performance as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour won Leading Actor, Allison Janney nabbed Supporting Actress for I, Tonya, Guillermo Del Toro was named Best Director for The Shape of Water and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri gobbled up just about every other major award.
The category I was most anxious to hear about, however, was the annual Rising Star Award, the only BAFTA award voted on by the public. It recognizes “a young actor or actress who has demonstrated exceptional talent and ambition and has begun to capture the imagination of the British public.” I had my fingers crossed that a certain actor’s name would be called and then this happened.
Daniel Kaluuya has been on my radar for the past decade. His work in television and film has spanned genres from drama and sci-fi to comedy and horror. He’s shown himself to be a versatile and charismatic actor who takes any role, no matter how small, and makes it stand out.
I initially knew him only as Posh Kenneth, a secondary but memorable character in the angsty, hormone fueled teen drama, Skins. Kenneth says very little but when he does speak it's usually in an unexpected upper received pronunciation, a.k.a. “posh,” accent, followed by a burst of boisterous street talk. Kaluuya was also a staff writer for the second and third series of the show.
If you’d like to see more of Posh Kenneth and the gang in action, you can watch the entire series of Skins on Netflix.
Kaluuya's next big milestone was a guest appearance on Doctor Who. He appeared in the 2009 Easter special "Planet of the Dead" with David Tennant as the Doctor. He played Barclay, one of the passengers riding a London bus that slips through a wormhole into a desert alien world. The stranded crew must work together to escape the dangerous planet and get back home. Baclay assists the Doctor with his mechanical knowlege.
This episode, along with the three other Doctor Who specials marking the end of the Tenth Doctor's run, is available to stream on Amazon Prime.
The premise is that five seemingly unconnected people are each sent a threatening card that warns the sender “knows what they did”. Young Mr. Kaluuya plays a care worker named Michael Fry who is employed by Oscar Lomax, a blind recluse and one of the menacing card recipients. Michael, or 'Tealeaf' (as Mr. Lomax calls him for no apparent reason), is just there for the paycheck but ends up befriending the delusional old man and following him down a dangerous path accompanied by a group of equally odd characters.
This delightfully dark sitcom can be found on Britbox.
2011 was a big year for Daniel. It started with his role as Rowan Atkinson’s sidekick in the spy parody film Johnny English Reborn. Kaluuya’s earnest junior agent, Colin Tucker, is assigned to keep an eye on his accident prone superior. While not a breakout hit, his character has some endearing moments, including the bizarre instinct to sing a sappy 70’s ballad whilst cradling a dying man in his arms.
Probably my favorite of all of Kaluuya’s characters thus far is The Fades’ Mac Armstrong. This 17-year-old has an encyclopedic knowledge of all things geek with his specialty being film quotes. Suddenly his best mate Paul (Iain De Caestecker) can see the spirits of the dead and has been summoned into the potentially apocalyptic world of Angelics and Fades.
Despite the threat to mankind, Mac’s greatest fear is that his best friend is outgrowing him and will leave him behind.
You can stream this 2011 BAFTA Award-winning best drama series on Hulu.
Daniel topped off 2011 with a performance that truly began a life-changing course for his career – his starring turn in the dystopian TV series Black Mirror. In fact, three years ago, I rated the "Fifteen Million Merits" episode as the second best in the whole series and said “Daniel Kaluuya is an actor to watch and he really carries the story as a young man longing for authenticity in his life.”
His character Bing is trudging through his soul-crushing institutional existence until he meets Abi (Downton Abbey's Jessica Brown Findlay), a new recruit at the facility. He overhears her singing and convinces her to try out for the talent show ‘Hot Shot’. He gifts her fifteen million merits to pay the entrance fee in part because he fancies her, but also because he wants to be part of something real. When the system corrupts the one pure thing he had, Bing gets very emotional and insists on being heard.
Warning: the following clip contains strong language!
This and every other Black Mirror episode is available to watch on Netflix.
More big-screen supporting roles started to come in for Kaluuya – Welcome to the Punch, Kick-Ass 2 and Sicario. But it wasn’t until writer and director Jordan Peele saw that Black Mirror performance and called him in to audition for his upcoming satirical horror film that Daniel’s breakthrough was complete.
In Get Out, he plays an African- American photographer named Chris Washington who finds himself in an interracial relationship with Rose Armitage (Allison Williams). When the time comes to meet the parents, Chris finds there is definitely something ominous going on at the Armitage homestead.
When I went to the movie theater to see Get Out, I knew Daniel was a new face for most of the audience. As for me, I experienced a vicarious pride as I watched this familiar young actor on the screen. Kaluuya‘s performance has been nominated for every major Lead Actor prize this year including the Golden Globe, BAFTA, SAG and Oscar.
And if you want to see this Rising Star in his latest project, Kaluuya is currently appearing in the new Marvel box office hit, Black Panther. He’s also in the cast of director Steve McQueen’s (12 Years a Slave) upcoming film, Widows. His co-stars there include Viola Davis and Liam Neeson.