10 Things You Never Knew About Daniel Kaluuya
Daniel Kaluuya appears on this week's episode of The Graham Norton Show to chat about his Golden Globe-nominated role in Judas and the Black Messiah; the 31-year-old actor is also being tipped for an Oscar nod for his performance in the acclaimed biopic as Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton.
It adds to a seriously stellar few years for Kaluuya, who delivered an Oscar-nominated performance in the zeitgeist-grabbing Get Out, then impressed in Marvel blockbuster Black Panther, emotive road movie Queen & Slim, and Sir Steve McQueen's heist thriller Widows. Ahead of his chat with Graham Norton, here are some things you might not know about this formidable talent.
1. He was born in London to Ugandan parents.
"My mom is from Uganda. She came to London to give birth to me," Kaluuya told Vice in 2017. "I lived in hostels until I was two years old, and then she got a home in Camden, where I grew up. She was on benefits for a long while, which is what Americans call welfare. Now, she works for a special needs school in Camden, which is the biggest drug market in Europe. It was where the Sex Pistols were born, as well as punk. Amy Winehouse lived there. It can be quite a dark place, because there are loads of drugs and all the drugs went into homes."
2. He first learned to act at north London's famous Anna Scher Theatre, an extracurricular performing arts school renowned for teaching improvisation.
Fellow alumni include Naomie Harris, Adam Deacon, and Rocketman director Dexter Fletcher. "You weren't given lines, or a script at Anna Scher. You had to make it up. It was improvisation and it let out a lot of steam," Kaluuya told The Guardian. "I was terrified, at the beginning. But then it became a game, because everyone went up. It's not like you were being judged. I think when even the teachers went up, a shift happened in me and I understood what acting was. I was like, 'Oh, that’s quite cool – let me try to make it work.' You may as well try to get everyone's attention, and get them to stop playing Snake on their phone."
3. His mom wasn't entirely convinced he should become an actor.
"Has she changed her mind since then? Nope!" Kaluuya told NME last year. "The thing is, actors are always freelancers. There's an inconsistency that makes her uncomfortable. There are times when I need to not work for a while, and that's just worrying for a mum to hear. I think she sees the Oscar nom as like getting a Masters. No one says, 'Well done, you've got your degree, you're done now.' It's, 'So what are you gonna do with it now?!'"
4. Before his acting career took off, he worked as a runner on a home shopping network.
He told Vice: "I showed up on my first day in a suit, because that's what I thought professionals did – and then everyone said, 'Get me a coffee.' So I was getting people a coffee in a suit, which was very interesting."
5. He's better at some accents than others.
Kaluuya shared a hilarious story about being caught out at an audition during a previous appearance on The Graham Norton Show.
6. He acts more in the U.S. than the U.K. for a very sad reason.
"I was going for a lot of stuff [in England], but I wasn't getting roles because of the color of my skin. It wasn't fair," Kaluuya told The Sunday Times last year. "It was a trap. For example, I went up for this show. It was 10 rounds of auditions. There was me and a white guy for the lead. It was about aliens. And I realized as I was going to one audition that the other guy had been given an acting coach. They didn't love me like they loved him."
Kaluuya added: "And this is no joke. This is my life. This is a job. In any other profession, that would be weird, but it was accepted in mine. It happened a few times, and I went, 'Nah. I'm not an idiot.'"
7. His big break came in British teen drama series Skins, which also helped to launch the careers of Dev Patel, Nicholas Hoult, Kaya Scodelario, and Jack O'Connell.
In addition to playing the character Posh Kenneth, a close friend of Patel's character Anwar, Kaluuya wrote two episodes of the seminal series: 2008's "Jai" and 2009's "Thomas."
"People talk a lot about how important that show was, and it's all true," he told NME. "I've never been on that starry thing, but I've always wanted to be part of a wave. To know that you're on a journey with people who see you and know you and get it. You had [comedian, writer and director] Simon Amstell in that writer's room, [cast members] Nic Hoult, Dev Patel… it was insane! These are people I knew at 17. [Peaky Blinders]' Aimee-Ffion Edwards and [Game of Thrones]' Joe Dempsie are two of my favorite actors in the world. Just to be around them is a blessing. I still see a lot of them too."
8. Around the same time as Skins, he guested in the Doctor Who episode "Planet of the Dead."
You might remember this episode as the one with the flying bus.
9. He's a staunch supporter of Arsenal football club.
In this video interview, he refers to the club's north London rivals, Tottenham Hotspur, as "that team" and "the Voldemort of the league."
10. He's right-handed, but used lockdown to learn how to write with his left hand.
Kaluuya explains why on The Graham Norton Show this Friday at 11pm EST on BBC America. Check out a preview from the episode below.
Do you have a favorite Daniel Kaluuya moment to date?