Academy Awards 2021: Why Are Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield Both Nominated For Best Supporting Actor For 'Judas and the Black Messiah'?

Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield are two young actors with a career’s worth of accomplishments under their belts. The latest: Academy Award nominations for their roles in Shaka King’s biopic Judas and the Black Messiah.

Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield both starred in ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’

Judas and the Black Messiah tells the story of Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton. Hampton was assassinated by the FBI in 1969 with the help of an informant who had infiltrated the Party. To ensure historical accuracy, Hampton’s son, Fred Hampton Jr., worked as a consultant on the film.

In the movie, Kaluuya played Hampton and Stanfield played William O’Neal, the informant who worked with the FBI to help them build their case and ultimately to carry out his execution.

Stanfield plays the “Judas” to Kaluuya’s “Black Messiah,” and both all-star actors have a hefty amount of screen time in the movie — roughly 50 minutes for Stanfield and 46 minutes for Kaluuya, according to the New York Times. Both Hampton and O’Neal are framed as leading characters in their own versions of the same story, with Hampton as the hero and O’Neal as the complicated, conflicted villain.

Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield are both nominated for Best Supporting Actor

Both Kaluuya and Stanfield delivered gripping performances, each capturing the essence of their characters, from Fred Hampton’s soaring public speaking skills to O’Neal’s suspicious behavior around the Black Panthers.

Both Kaluuya and Stanfield are nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the 2021 Academy Awards. They share the category with Sacha Baron Cohen, who’s nominated for his role in The Trial of the Chicago 7; Leslie Odom, who played iconic singer Sam Cooke in Regina King’s directorial debut One Night in Miami…; and Paul Raci for his role opposite Riz Ahmed in Sound of Metal.

When the nominations were announced, many people wondered who the lead actor of Judas and the Black Messiah is, then, if both Hampton and O’Neal are considered supporting characters.

Why Daniel Kaluuya or LaKeith Stanfield weren’t nominated for Best Actor

Actors who are part of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences vote to nominate other actors in both the leading and supporting categories. So Kaluuya and Stanfield’s peers felt that they both gave outstanding performances as supporting characters in Judas and the Black Messiah.

Some avid Oscar-watchers surmise that Stanfield and Kaluuya were relegated to the Best Supporting Actor category so as to not compete with the late Chadwick Boseman for the Lead Actor award. Boseman is the favorite to win Best Actor for his role as the trumpeter Levee in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom opposite Viola Davis (who is nominated herself).

The 93rd Academy Awards air on ABC at 8 p.m. EDT/5 p.m. PDT.

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