"You can murder a freedom fighter, but you can't murder freedom."

By Rosy Cordero
August 06, 2020 at 08:38 PM EDT
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Glen Wilson

Daniel Kaluuya steps into power in the first trailer for Judas and the Black Messiah, which stars the Academy Award-nominated actor as activist Fred Hampton.

Hampton rose to prominence as a member of Chicago's Black Panther Party and became leader of the Illinois chapter in the late 1960s. During his time with the revolutionary socialist political organization, he brokered a non-aggression pact between many of Chicago's toughest gangs, established a free breakfast program, and founded a community program to aid in the supervision of the police.

Hampton was killed on Dec. 4, 1969, during an FBI raid of his home while he was in bed with his pregnant girlfriend. He had been fed a barbiturate earlier that evening by informant William O'Neal, whose relationship with Hampton is explored in the drama.

"You can murder a freedom fighter," an impassioned Hampton says in the trailer, "but you can't murder freedom."

The Ryan Coogler-produced project isn't a straight biopic, as the writers took dramatic liberties with Hampton and O'Neal's stories. The film costars Lakeith Stanfield (as O'Neal), Jesse Plemons, and Martin Sheen.

Shaka King, the film's director and co-writer, unveiled the trailer during a panel for the virtual NABJ-NAHJ Conference on Thursday. "My casting choices were very instinctive," he said of the film. "I'd seen Daniel's work in Get Out and Black Mirror, and I knew of his talent. Honestly, I knew he was the guy. I didn't know why he was the guy, I just knew. When I was finally introduced to him and I sat down with him, it was only confirmed and reconfirmed because he has this certain gravitas to him that you rarely find in someone his age."

King added that he was not at all reluctant hiring Kaluuya, a British man, to portray Hampton in the film. Hampton's son, Fred Hampton Jr., also stands by Kaluuya's casting.

Warner Bros. has not announced a release date for Judas and the Black Messiah, though the studio's YouTube page touts it as "only in theaters 2021." Watch the trailer above.

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