In 2017, an American film called Get Out achieved such great acclaim that it would soon become among the most talked about films of that year. For any film to create the kind of buzz that Get Out did is superb. For a horror film to do so is extremely rare.

Naturally, it did very well in cinemas (for obvious reasons) and grossed an impressive $255m (Shs938b) worldwide against a budget of $4.5m (Shs16.5b). A year later, the film received loads of nominations for prestigious awards, including two Golden Globes nominations and four Academy Award nominations, where it eventually won an Oscar for best original screenplay.

One of the most treasured aspects of the horror film was Daniel Kaluuya’s performance as the central character; a Black American photographer who suffers racism at the hands of his White girlfriend’s family. He received a best actor nomination for the role at the Academy Awards (one of the four mentioned above). This nomination put Kaluuya in the kind of limelight that most actors can only dream about.

Such is the way Ugandans were introduced to their own, having barely known him before this role. Not only was it his breakout moment, it was a moment of revelation for us as a nation. A moment of national pride. In that moment, we all remembered seeing Kaluuya play alongside the iconic Rowan Atkinson, aka Mr Bean, where he played a young MI7 agent in the 2011 film Johnny English Reborn. Only now did it occur to us that he was Ugandan all along.

The Golden Globe

Last Sunday, the 32-year-old actor was in the news again after winning a Golden Globe for supporting actor in Judas and the Black Messiah.

The biographical drama tells the story of Black Panther party leader, Fred Hampton, who is betrayed by a friend and resultantly killed by the police on his 21st birthday. It is a tribute to a young charismatic leader whose life ends tragically before reaching full potential.

Again, just like in the case Get Out and in other roles, Kaluuya’s performance in the film was lauded by critics, and he received nominations for Screen Actors Guild Award and Golden Globe Award nominations for best supporting actor, winning the latter award.

Clearly, Kaluuya has made himself a name in Hollywood as one of what The New York Times calls “the most consequential leading men of his generation”. Some of his better known acts after Get Out include Black Panther (2018), Johnny English Strikes Again (2018) and Queen & Slim (2019). It is safe to say that this is the beginning of a huge film career.

Who is Kaluuya?

Kaluuya was born on February 24, 1989, in London, to Ugandan parents Stephen Kaluuya and Damalie Namusoke.

He grew up with his mother and an older sister on a council estate in Camden. According to his Wikipedia page, Kaluuya’s father lived in Uganda, and rarely ever visited the family during his childhood due to the UK visa regulations.

For this reason, Kaluuya did not reconnect with that part of his family until he reached the age of 15, according to one interview he gave The New York Times.

Kaluuya started his career after he wrote his first play aged nine and saw it performed locally at Hampstead Theatre. A teacher soon advised his mother to enrol him in an after-school theatre programme because “he was a very busy child,” as a means to dissipate some of boy’s extra energy and keep him engaged.

His mother had him registered for a programme at the Anna Scher Theatre, and after a four-year waiting period, 13-year-old Kaluuya found an outlet for his creative energy via improvisation acting classes. Prior to this opening, Kaluuya had abandoned the arts in favour or football. Fortunately, he found his way back to where he truly belongs.

“At the end of 2009, the Screen International Magazine picked Kaluuya out in their annual report as a UK star of tomorrow,” a statement reads on his Wikipedia page.

“Between 2011 and 2013, Kaluuya would appear in several short films, most notably in Daniel Mulloy’s Baby, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and went on to win the Best Short Film Award at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, as well as the Best Short Film Award at the British Independent Film Awards.”

Working with Mr Bean

In 2011, when Kaluuya was barely 23, he landed his biggest role ever, playing alongside Rowan Atkinson as young agent Tucker Johnny English Reborn.

When asked in a TV interview if this was like a childhood dream of his to work with Rowan Atkinson, Kaluuya replies that he never thought anything like this was possible growing up.

“No, you are not gonna work with Rowan Atkinson. It’s not possible!” he says before adding that it was pretty cool to get the chance and that it felt pretty normal working with the star.

The role that opened real doors

In the same year, 2011, Kaluuya played one of the lead characters on a British TV show called Black Mirror, for which he received positive reviews from critics. The episode he appeared in was originally aired in 2011 but didn’t gain popularity until 2015 when it was released on Netflix in the United States.

“It was his performance in Black Mirror that attracted the attention of Jordan Peele, who later cast him in Get Out, which proved to be his breakthrough role,” reads a statement on his Wikipedia. Get out was released in cinemas on February 24, 2017, which was his 28th birthday. No one would be surprised if this was meant to honour him for his extraordinary performance on the film.

Raining jobs

After Get Out, the dominos started falling. The right people noticed the young actor’s talent. And the right doors opened for him. Without Get Out, Kaluuya may never have set foot in Wakanda in the global blockbuster that was Black Panther.

His role as W’Kabi, the best friend to T’challa was one of the central roles on the film that grossed $1.3b (Shs4.7 trillion) worldwide.

“We were able to show this world in a way that we see us, and it being a Marvel film. You’re bringing something into the world that doesn’t exist, and that’s just really difficult because there’s no blueprint, there’s no template.

And there’s some pains in doing that. But when people receive it and people take it as their own, and kids and families are going dressed to the cinemas, it makes everything worth it,” Kaluuya speaks to Variety about his experience on Black Panther.