What was the process like building chemistry with Dominique Fishback, Daniel?
DK: We just listened to Dominique a lot. [laughs] She has incredible ideas. I mean, she wrote that poem. And we just spoke a lot, personally, because she couldn’t make the rehearsals. So every time I had a rehearsal, I’d call her up and say, “Yo, this is what we did.” So we just kept her in the loop. ‘Cause this arc, within the narrative, is so important because this is a window into the humanity of these people. And so we just stayed connected and stayed to learn.
When did you first hear it? On-set or before?
DK: She waited for me to be on set, so it would work. Because I’m supposed to be hearing it for the first time. But Shaka took it in and was like, Yeah. Just say that poem.
The biggest scene is the FBI raid ending the film. Both Chairman Fred Jr. and Mother Akua (formerly Deborah Johnson) were on the on set. What was the mood?
DK: Not good. I felt very down. It was a very unsettling thing to be a part of. And my spirit was not in great spaces when we were doing that scene. But you know, in order to tell the truth, you’ve got to tell the whole truth.
CFJ: Watching with a critical eye, I recall our struggles to make sure that the brutal realities were reflected. Some of them were issues people may not like to talk about. James Glover Davis, a Negro police officer, had his role [in the assassination]. I recall after shooting that scene, going back to the hotel, and saying to the individual who played James Gloves Davis, “You gotta step back. You’re a little Too close. [laughs] I can’t get on the elevator with you.”
But it was intense. I remember Dominique Fishback, after the scene, she commented that my eyes were a little watery. I said—”That’s from allergies.” [laughs] We joke about it to this day. But the scene is something that needs to be shown as much as we possibly can so we might reflect about what lengths this government has, will, and did go to to cease our struggle for self-determination.
“Judas and the Black Messiah” will be available in theaters and on HBO Max on February 12. To read Odie Henderson’s review of the film, click here.