LaKeith was Quietly Having His Moment... and We Barely Noticed
LaKeith Stanfield will be a familiar face for many, but for what and why will almost certainly differ. Many will likely know him from the TV series Atlanta. Others from his somewhat smaller role in Get Out. Regardless of where you have or haven't seen him, he's been having a quiet renaissance and we've barely turned our heads for him. LaKeith hasn't been nominated for an Oscar, or anything major, but that doesn't mean he hasn't deserved it. Stanfield has been a man of many faces, and we've taken him for granted for far too long. I have brought it upon myself to do this write-up for him and call to attention his many notable roles over the years.
Short Term 12 (2013)
LaKeith Stanfield's feature film debut was in the 2013 indie drama Short Term 12 starring Brie Larson. This indie hit was a knockout at festivals everywhere and saw some small-scale commercial success. Stanfield played in a supporting role which embodied that of a troubled kid who had nowhere else to go and confided in the company he shared with the kids at a halfway house, of sorts. At-risk teens all shared in this small community where they would either rehabilitate, be educated, or at the very least, get back on their feet again. Larson steals the show in this film, but Stanfield quietly gives a nuanced performance which portrays a troubled young teen trying to overcome his traumas and find his way. Stanfield shows so much range and promise in his first major feature role and would flex his power in the roles to come. In this role, he was nominated for Best Supporting Male at the Film Independent Spirit Awards and was a part of the Best Ensemble Cast win at the Chicago International Film Festival. This film is more than worth your time and a try if you're willing to take a chance on it.
2014 - 2016
There are a number of films to focus on during this time such as Dope, Selma, and even Snowden, but I wanted to focus mostly on Straight Outta Compton. While he isn't in the film very much, he still embodies the character of Snoop Dogg so well. When he's on-screen, he really shines. Stanfield oozes the charisma and charm needed to pull off the role. Not only that, LaKeith absolutely nails the mood, demeanor, and mannerisms of Snoop Dogg as well. I was completely unaware that Stanfield was even in the film, let alone that it would cover a bit of Snoop Dogg. I thought that this was tremendous casting and I was so happy to see him liven up the screen with his presence. I have no doubt he is great in these other films I've mentioned, but I would be a fraud if I were to try to dive into films I haven't even seen yet. Please do take it easy on me in the comments, I'm fully aware these are films I need to see. Some more than others. Overall, the commercial popularity these films enjoyed allowed him the chance to transition into the next phase of his career.
Get Out (2017)
This brings us to the major turning point in LaKeith's career: Jordan Peele's breakout debut feature hit Get Out. This film enjoyed some of the hugest commercial success ever by such a small film with a miniscule budget, as far as Hollywood standards are concerned. LaKeith once again had a smaller role in this film, but he was on-screen enough and played a big enough role to stand out and to make such an impression. His strange, but yet thoroughly convincing and layered performance will forever be burned into the collective consciousness. He plays a tertiary character, sure, but it's such an important character for the story and has a pivotal, iconic moment in the film that is one the film community and mainstream audiences won't soon forget. Stanfield burst onto the filmic scene with this performance and set up his subsequent performances which may or may not be familiar to most.
Sorry to Bother You (2018)
If there were ever questions about his potential to be a leading man, those would proverbially be answered. Boots Riley's uniquely provocative and daring directorial debut stars LaKeith Stanfield who gives a fantastic and dynamic performance. This certainly gave LaKeith the confidence (perhaps he already had it) that he's more than capable of being a leading man. Indie successes are always significant, but he will have to be given the chance in a mainstream role to really burst onto the scene in Hollywood as a centerpiece. The film will certainly not be for everyone with its challenging themes, unorthodox storytelling approach, and idiosyncratic style. However, if you're willing to step outside your comfort zone, you are sure to be rewarded with Stanfield's outstanding performance and a unique cinematic experience.
Uncut Gems and Beyond
LaKeith had a tremendous 2019 with Uncut Gems, Knives Out, and eventually leading into his co-lead performance in 2020's The Photograph. Stanfield returned to character acting after his remarkable lead performance the previous year with his portrayal of Demany in Uncut Gems. Some might shove him aside as a minor role in this, but Stanfield gives a confident and assured performance as the pushy and flaky hustler in this towering achievement of a film. Stanfield saw even more commercial success and broad popularity with the huge box office hit Knives Out. I felt that the film was lacking in many ways, but aside from that, LaKeith gives a consistent and solid enough performance you can always rely on him for. I never did see The Photograph, but the fact that he returned to a co-star is assuring that he has not lost his footing in Hollywood. The Photograph did see some small success, but it's always a win when you can share the big screen as an actor. Even most A-listers are still fighting for that chance today. The spotlight can be taken away from you so easily in this business, and it doesn't seem Stanfield is showing any signs of slowing down.
Judas and the Black Messiah (2021)
LaKeith Stanfield is currently billed as a supporting actor for this powerful film set to come out soon. This film is about the undercover operation against the deputy chairman of the national Black Panther Party by the FBI and Chicago Police Department. This film is sure to shake up the Oscar race for acting, possibly the Big Five and even Best Picture. Based on early reviews, Daniel Kaluuya gives a towering performance in this very powerful and possibly controversial role. Stanfield once again will likely give another quietly astonishing performance, but will undoubtedly be outshined by Kaluuya (nothing against him) and swept under the rug. LaKeith will have his time under the sun, even if he is having his "moment" right now. This is why he's having his quiet renaissance, he's being largely overshadowed by flashier and classically praised performances. Stanfield does not need an Oscar to receive proper validation - but it would solidify his stance as one of the premier and landmark performers we have today. Perhaps this film will show people that - and if not, it will almost certainly be in his subsequent roles. I have no doubt in my mind critics, audiences, and the filmic community at large will notice what he's been doing now and over the years.
Keep on having your moment, LaKeith. We're pulling for you.