SAM SANDERS, HOST:
Hey, y'all. IT'S BEEN A MINUTE. I'm Sam Sanders. Every Tuesday on the show, we bring you a deep dive. And today, we have a really fun conversation. I've been really hyped by this one for some time. We taped it in LA a few weeks ago. You might have heard of him. You definitely know who he is - Lakeith Stanfield. He's been everywhere the last two years or so. He plays the weird and wonderful Darius on "Atlanta." He's in a couple of movies this summer, including one that just came out on Netflix. It's called "The Incredible Jessica James." That one stars Jessica Williams from "The Daily Show" and 2 Dope Queens. So Lakeith plays her former love interest.
You know Lakeith from other stuff too, though. He was in "Get Out." He's the guy in the opening scene who gets kidnapped. Same guy who ends up as a prisoner in the second place, and at that garden party, he yells the title phrase of the movie - get out. That's him. He was also in the film from a few years ago called "Straight Outta Compton."
He's been everywhere doing really big stuff. So this chat, we discuss all that. We talk about "Get Out," other films he's in this summer. We talk about his career, how he got into acting, how black men are portrayed in film. And we just had a bunch of fun. And I don't want to spoil it here, but that's enough for me for now. Here's my chat with Lakeith Stanfield, both of us together in LA. We taped it a bit earlier this summer. Enjoy.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
LAKEITH STANFIELD: Oh, let's see. What did I have for breakfast? I didn't even eat breakfast today yet. I still need to eat. I never eat. I think I got a small stomach or something. I eat like one time, like, at night and then I'm good.
SANDERS: Give me the problem you have 'cause I eat all day. That's all I do. So I got to start out by telling you that I have been going deep on your tweets. Your tweets are very deep, and I like them a lot. And I found one tweet from you. This is from May 11, 2017. You said, fidget spinning the rest of today away. Do you like fidget spinners?
STANFIELD: I love it, yeah. It's...
SANDERS: Bro, I got you a gift.
SANDERS: I got you a gift. I got you a fidget spinner.
STANFIELD: Oh, my God, thank you.
STANFIELD: Yes. This is amazing.
SANDERS: You can open it.
STANFIELD: OK. This is - I'm doing this the whole interview. Yes. I love this interview already.
SANDERS: Mine's white.
SANDERS: So the first one I ordered, I noticed the white one was cheaper than the black one. And I was like, oh, that never happens.
STANFIELD: Oh, OK. Oh, all right.
SANDERS: So you got like the top-of-the-line black fidget spinner.
STANFIELD: Yes. I prefer the black one, so thanks.
STANFIELD: When I was doing it, when I tweeted that, I was actually - just came out of, like, a meditative state.
STANFIELD: So I was like thinking about some things that I'm writing, stuff like that. So this is kind of like - I don't know. It just puts me in the vibe of my meditative state.
SANDERS: How long do you meditate, when you meditate?
STANFIELD: It depends. It could be anywhere from five seconds to several hours, so.
SANDERS: So, like, I try to do it daily, but after like 10 minutes, I'm like, OK, I'm done. I got this. I'm good.
STANFIELD: Yeah. I just - I don't know. I feel it relaxes me a lot, you know. It's a crazy kind of world that I'm in right now, so especially when we're constantly - like, there's a lot of energy in LA, you know, like, much more from where I come from, like in San Bernardino and Victorville up in the IE.
SANDERS: Oh, OK, you're up there.
SANDERS: I was out - I guess I was further past there because I remember a few years ago when there was that big bear killer, that cop who was running around. Everyone was scared to death. They had me cover that story, so I was way out there.
STANFIELD: Oh, damn.
SANDERS: But yeah, the Inland Empire. It's not LA.
STANFIELD: It's not LA, no.
SANDERS: So you're from there?
STANFIELD: Yes. And I'm used to just like letting my imagination run because that's really all you can do there is just entertain your imagination - sorry.
SANDERS: Really? Oh, you're good.
STANFIELD: So for some reason, I put my number on Twitter.
SANDERS: What? Why would you put your number...
STANFIELD: And people have just been hitting me up.
SANDERS: What are they saying when they call you or text you?
STANFIELD: Well, I was like - I was just - I had this weird sense of loneliness. I was like - I mean, everyone feels lonely sometimes. So I was like, if you feel lonely, just call me and say what's up, like...
STANFIELD: And so I put my number of there. But it wasn't my real number, it was like one of those app things.
SANDERS: Oh, OK.
STANFIELD: Well, you can still reach me by Wi-Fi. So I put it up there. And everyone's calling in. And, of course, it kept crashing because too many people calling.
SANDERS: What's the frequency of calls and texts or whatever?
STANFIELD: It was a lot. It was hundreds, so like very quickly.
SANDERS: And you answered some?
STANFIELD: Yes, I did. So I got to talk to a couple of people, which is cool. I don't think anybody was actually lonely, but, I mean, maybe in some sense they still were. I know I felt less lonely.
SANDERS: So what do you do when you're lonely besides give your number away?
STANFIELD: Sometimes I just try to sit in it because it's an interesting sensation. And sometimes cool stuff comes out of boredom, idleness and that feeling of loneliness. But really, there's no real right answer. Sometimes I just try to write. Sometimes I try to do music, I paint. But sometimes those things don't necessarily remedy things especially quickly, like it usually will happen after the product of something comes out.
STANFIELD: Or just go back to reading the script and immerse myself in that imaginary world. Like, I'm always reading a script, like, for some story or something. So I can always go back to that and play in that world. And that kind of takes me out of reality for that moment.
SANDERS: You know, it's funny. I was thinking about you saying that you sometimes just sit in the loneliness, in, like, the quiet. I feel like your character in Atlanta is a guy who's really cool just sitting in the quiet. Like, does some of that come from your life and your experience?
STANFIELD: I think the creative team behind "Atlanta" and the characters are really brilliant and smart and have a good sense of picking up on things from people. So these characters share a lot with the real life people of all of us. They share a lot of sort of mirrors to us. And I didn't even realize how much Darius was similar to me until after I seen the show come out.
SANDERS: So when you saw it, were you like, dude.
STANFIELD: Yeah. I was like, you guys are sneaky. What are y'all doing? Like, y'all with the CIA? Like, what's going on? But, no they just got a very good sense of who I was in the short amount of time that we'd been sort of hanging out. And now, I feel like I influence that character, that character influences me. There are a lot of things that aren't the same, but there are a lot of cool things that are. I think existing in a sort of aloof disposition toward things in general is something that we share.
STANFIELD: Typically I'm just like, oh, whatever, always thinking about stuff. I think we're similar in that way.
SANDERS: Totally. You know, so Darius has some amazing one-liners from season one. What's your favorite quote of his? I loved the - what's was the one about Flo Rida?
STANFIELD: Oh, yeah. Flo Rida - wait - moms got to have good music, too.
SANDERS: Mom's got to have rap, oo.
SANDERS: So like, you are having a really big year - "Atlanta," "Get Out," "Selma" was a little while back. You've got "War Machine" this summer. You have another film later on. Like, did you want everything to happen all at once? Because it seems like it all just happened at once for you.
STANFIELD: No. I mean, one thing I'm not very good at is planning.
STANFIELD: I'm very chaotic and sporadic and random. But I just kept trying to hustle, kept trying to make something happen. And after just like running into the wall a million times, I became numb to it. So now when I go in for something, I'm not worried about whether I can secure it, whether it will - what the money will be for me, what the result of it will be. I'm just going in simply just to do it.
And then from there, things have just sort of been opening up in a weird sense. Like sometimes when you don't try to force things into happening, the waters open up for you like Moses. It's like it's - the universe has a funny way of doing that. It allows you if you allow it.
STANFIELD: So that's what I have been trying to do. And so far, it's been pretty cool, yeah.
SANDERS: It has worked. When did you in your career realize that your Red Sea was parting, that things were starting to happen? Like, was there a moment where you said, oh, it's happening?
STANFIELD: There was - there were moments early where I said, oh, it's happening, and then I realized it wasn't happening.
SANDERS: Like what? Tell me.
STANFIELD: Well, sometimes when you do a movie, you assume that will come with that is a lot of success, a lot of...
SANDERS: I'm famous now.
STANFIELD: Yeah. Just because you did a movie. It doesn't work that way. This game is very fickle. It happens very quickly. And so you have to constantly be aware. And also, this is the only job I have. So - and you never know where your next job is going to come from. So it's a very kind of scary, trippy game to operate in. So sometimes when you secure a role in a movie, you assume, OK, boom, I finally got it. This is my thing, you know.
Once I was let down my first time, I realized that, like, it's not about trying to reach that success point, it's about just - the same thing I'm saying about auditioning. It's just about going for it. And if something comes from it, then it's a pleasant surprise to me. If it doesn't, it never was there for me to lose.
SANDERS: What was that first letdown that you mentioned?
STANFIELD: Let's see. It was - I guess it was just - I guess I assumed when I played Snoop that I would never have to worry about working again.
SANDERS: Yeah. Snoop, for those who don't know.
STANFIELD: For "Straight Outta Compton."
STANFIELD: And I assumed - I was like, yeah, once I get this, like, I'm good.
SANDERS: You're set. And it wasn't?
STANFIELD: And it wasn't.
SANDERS: How wasn't it not?
STANFIELD: It just...
SANDERS: I just had a double negative. I'm sorry.
STANFIELD: Yeah. No, it just it just doesn't quite work that way. It was a great, highly successful, beautiful film, but...
STANFIELD: ...it doesn't necessarily - you have to continue to expand yourself and do different things. Like, I got a lot of people that was like, oh, let's do a spin-off of this, let's do "Straight Outta Inglewood" now, like weird little spin-offs and things like that. But I always wanted to expand my palate. And I understood to do that, I would have to make sacrifices. So when some of those things came, when I could have used the money, I was like no, I'm not going to - I'm just going to wait on the power move and wait until I secure myself in a situation where I can shine my best and then use that platform.
SANDERS: Well, 'cause like, so far, it's like all the projects that I've seen you in, they're pretty critically acclaimed. How do you swing that? Is it your team? Is it you? What is your process of saying, I'm going to do this and not that?
STANFIELD: Negotiating is a crazy thing in this business, getting to the point where you're like, OK, now we've come to a firm decision. I'm trying to look for the long haul.
STANFIELD: I kind of want to look back on things that I do and be happy with what I've done and know that in some sense I've entertained people but that we've also - if we could touch on a little bit of truth and, you know, move people. My very first film I did, "Short Term 12," happened to be something that moved a lot of people and that was close to people. That feeling that I got from that, from like being in that audience and watching those people and how they responded to things, it's something that I've always wanted to have be a part of my work.
I love this craft so much, but it's something that isn't easy. And it's challenging for me to get into these different characters and do these things. But I like that challenge. I enjoy pushing myself. So the next thing, I'm always looking to push myself a little bit further.
SANDERS: Yeah. I want to talk about how you got to acting. I read up a bit on you. And you've had a few different kind of jobs. Will you walk me through your job trajectory until you got to where you are now?
STANFIELD: Well, there weren't many. Let me see. My first job I think was - I worked with this dude who had this big house. And he had just like a bunch of plants in it - marijuana plants.
SANDERS: Well, I saw this. Yeah. So you worked at the marijuana house. You were, like, helping grow?
STANFIELD: Yeah, people say trap house. But I don't think it's a - wasn't quite a trap house.
SANDERS: (Laughter) Well, trap, it has to be a different kind of drug, right?
SANDERS: Like, trap is, like...
STANFIELD: Yeah. Trap is - trap is, like, cocaina.
SANDERS: Trap is, like, yayo. Yeah, exactly.
STANFIELD: You know what I mean? Like...
SANDERS: You weren't trapping.
STANFIELD: This - these are beautiful plants that can enhance and enrich one's soul, once it's tapped into.
SANDERS: (Laughter) Where was the factory?
STANFIELD: It was in Victorville.
STANFIELD: In the desert. And so basically, it was just this big house with a bunch of knocked-out walls and a bunch of plants. And I was helping raise these things up.
SANDERS: Although, you said - I heard that, like - I read the marijuana house blew up or it was raided. Or what happened?
STANFIELD: Yeah, it got raided.
SANDERS: It got raided. That's what - OK, it got raided.
STANFIELD: Yeah, it - just some, like, set-up, like...
SANDERS: Were you there when it got raided?
STANFIELD: No. No. I just came to work one day and it was like, sorry. The guy was, like, a Hispanic dude. He's like, sorry, it's over. I was like...
SANDERS: Wow. So then what'd you do?
STANFIELD: So then I went to work for AT&T.
SANDERS: Doing what?
STANFIELD: Door-to-door sales.
SANDERS: Oh, that sounds rough.
STANFIELD: It's very hard but very fun because you get to, like...
SANDERS: Why is it fun?
STANFIELD: ...You get to act, in a sense, right?
STANFIELD: Like, you get to try to convince people that you're not there selling them something that they don't really, necessarily need. So it was just fun to get into those. And I'll just play around with it, like, if I'm - if I met someone older, like, I would try to play to their age and play a little bit older, be a salesman.
SANDERS: Do it. Go - OK. For - sale me. Sell me.
STANFIELD: Oh, let me pretend that - OK.
STANFIELD: Hello. My name is Lakeith Stanfield. I'm with AT&T U-verse. Nice to meet you.
SANDERS: Nice to meet you.
STANFIELD: What's your name, darling?
STANFIELD: My name is Lakeith. I just said that. Let me say it again. My name's Lakeith. And you look very, very nice today.
STANFIELD: By the way, the way the sun is hitting you - the wrinkle in the center of your head makes you look 20 years younger.
SANDERS: I'll buy it.
SANDERS: Whatever you got, I'm sold. So would this work? This...
STANFIELD: Did it work? Are you...
SANDERS: You know what? I'll buy it. I'll buy U-verse. Sure. Fine.
STANFIELD: (Laughter) That was horrible. That was great.
SANDERS: That was good. Now also, so - and then you were also, like - did you model, briefly?
STANFIELD: No. I got turned down for some modeling things.
SANDERS: One of the profiles of you said that you were a runway model.
STANFIELD: Oh, no. I went to school for model - like, I - OK, so when I first started acting and I had tried to find a way to get into the business, so I jumped on Google. And I just started, like, Googling anything, any way that I could get in.
STANFIELD: And so I went on a bunch of scams, a bunch of random things. And one school accepted me that wasn't quite a scam.
SANDERS: Which school?
STANFIELD: It was John Casablancas School of Model and Talent (ph). So...
SANDERS: Where is that?
STANFIELD: And it was in Orange County at the time.
STANFIELD: So I went there. They taught me how to walk the runway. They taught me all about the different brands, all about the...
SANDERS: Wait, so you can runway - so you can walk the runway?
STANFIELD: I can. Not well, but I can do it.
STANFIELD: I can get by. I could play it off.
STANFIELD: And what they did was they had agents that came in every other week - agents for commercials. That's what excited me.
SANDERS: OK, you wanted to get spotted. Yes.
STANFIELD: So I was like, one of these weeks, I'm going to get in, get one of these agents. That was my big plan. I was, like, a model in disguise, like, I wasn't really a model.
SANDERS: How tall are you?
STANFIELD: Almost 6 feet.
SANDERS: Oh, yeah. You could model.
STANFIELD: Yeah, and I'm like 120 pounds to boot, so.
SANDERS: You're perfect. Oh, you're perfect.
STANFIELD: Yeah, it was, like, the - they...
SANDERS: Dude, you're 120 pounds? Man, I have - I got to work out more. I'm like 180-something - I'm some - this election, I gained so much Donald Trump weight. That's another story. Sorry.
STANFIELD: (Laughter) Trump weight.
SANDERS: (Laughter) Trump weight - I did. So you were catwalking (ph), trying to get picked up. So is that how it happened for you?
STANFIELD: Yeah, dude. I - so I said, I want to go in for one of the agents on one of the weeks they were - came in biweekly. And they said, are you ready, you've got something prepared? I said, yes. I didn't, but I went in there.
SANDERS: What'd you read? What'd you say?
STANFIELD: I just jumped up on the table and did something random, whatever I felt I could - I should do at the time, that's what I did.
SANDERS: Like movements, words?
STANFIELD: Movements, words - I don't even remember. I think I just, like, jumped on the chair and pretended I was surfing or something like, dude, surf's up, or something weird like that.
STANFIELD: And the agent, for whatever reason, saw something in me. So he signed me.
SANDERS: Wow. He signed you. And then, like, were you in commercials first, or what?
STANFIELD: I tried to get into commercials and failed miserably for five years. So I kept running into the wall. I kept failing. I did not know how to audition, didn't know - didn't even know how to act, didn't know anything. And I just kept running into the wall. So they eventually regretted signing me.
STANFIELD: But something cool came out of it because a girl there that was a model started to act as my manager for a little while.
SANDERS: Well, that's nice.
STANFIELD: So she sent me on this little movie called "Short Term 12"...
STANFIELD: ...In 2008. And I was 17. And that was my very first short film movie. And that kind of would be the thing that sort of started my career.
SANDERS: Did you ever think it would be like this for you? Did you ever expect a year like this?
STANFIELD: I did. Yeah, when I was really younger, I, for some reason, saw myself doing - and this is all I thought I could do. I can't exist without expressing myself. It's my life. So I knew it had to be this or music, and...
SANDERS: Well, you also do that, too. What's your group called?
SANDERS: How can folks find that if they want to find it?
STANFIELD: Soundcloud.com/wearemoors, I think it is.
SANDERS: OK. I want to do a little air horn, like...
STANFIELD: (Imitating air horn).
SANDERS: Yeah (laughter). That was good.
SANDERS: All right. I got us off-topic. So OK, so, like, it started happening for you. I want to ask you about a few of the roles that you've played. I feel like, I'm sure you get asked about "Get Out" all the time. But, like, that's such a big movie. Such, like - it's, like, a part of the culture now.
SANDERS: Do people just come up to you and ask you to yell, get out?
STANFIELD: No. What they do is, typically, they take pictures without the flash.
STANFIELD: And I tell them, it's OK, you could take them. But I'm not going to turn into - it was just a movie.
STANFIELD: It's either that or someone was asking me to measure my tree. I get that a lot, too, so.
SANDERS: (Laughter) Wow.
STANFIELD: Yeah, it's cool. I mean, I love all the love that's been coming from it because I love the film.
STANFIELD: And it terrified me, like, I came out of the theater shaking.
SANDERS: Even after you - even you being in it, you were - still were terrified by it?
STANFIELD: It was the most creepy experience I've ever had on a set, like...
STANFIELD: I've never felt outside of my body in that way on a set before. Just imagine, I'm a black dude going up to a bunch of, like, white extras - all the extras in the things are white. And I'm discussing how beautiful the patterns are, on how expressive these black people are and, you know, their tattoos are tribal. It's just such a...
SANDERS: It's weird.
STANFIELD: So to be outside of myself like that...
STANFIELD: ...Was almost like taking me out of the sunken place for a minute, making me realize just how indoctrinated I might be in my real life with things that I don't understand.
STANFIELD: There's just so many implications behind the place that race plays in the psyche of people from all different backgrounds. And we don't even know the ways in which it affects us until we can view it from a polarized view. This is what I think being in that character allowed me to see for the first time.
And also, seeing that movie allowed me to see it, too, that the sunken place is a real place that a lot of black people and a lot of people of color, in general, in America - and people that aren't in color - exist in and don't realize they exist in.
SANDERS: How would you define the sunken place?
STANFIELD: Oh, that's tough. I...
SANDERS: If it's a state of mind.
STANFIELD: I think it's just not asking questions and taking things for face value based on what we've been taught, versus based on what we know and feel. It makes us make ourselves take a back seat to how we're programmed, if that makes sense.
SANDERS: It makes perfect sense.
SANDERS: You know, that scene at the open - so, full confession. I saw the movie twice. First time, I was late. And I was a stereotype. And I missed the opening scene where you get abducted. But I saw it the second time. I was like, whoa. That scene of you - black man at night, lost with his phone out, trying to get to where he's going, car pulls up and someone abducts you - it sets the tone for the whole movie, and it's really creepy.
And it also kind of turns on its head the whole trope of the white woman in distress. Like, this movie starts with a black man in distress. There's so much in that first scene.
SANDERS: What does that scene mean to you, as a person who played it?
STANFIELD: Well, one of the things it meant to me was that - I feel like it's an interesting thing to think about. It's almost not OK for black dudes to be in stress or, like, to be distressed...
STANFIELD: ...Because we always have to sort of maintain this facade of being macho because it's a survival technique that I think is - we've been using since the days of slavery.
STANFIELD: Which still shows itself in modern culture and in what it means to be a black man in today - in today's world, today's sunken place.
SANDERS: (Snapping) Giving you snaps for this. You're preaching.
STANFIELD: Yeah. And so I kind of - I like the idea that it's OK to - it's showing that it's OK for us to be vulnerable, too. It's OK for us to be afraid, too. It's not about being afraid and being vulnerable that's the issue. It's about getting through times like this. And if anyone's been able to get through traumatic situations and crazy things, it's been black people in this country. I think that's not a difficult thing to see, but it is in cinema.
So it's a fresh thing to see on - in cinema. That's one of the many things that I think about this film - and things like "Atlanta," too. It's OK to be weird, too. It's OK to be yourself. And you don't always have to be something that other people want you to be. That's part of getting out of the sunken place is realizing that.
SANDERS: Yeah. Oh, my goodness, yeah. I mean, like, it's, like, when I think of "Atlanta," when I think of a lot of the roles that you play, you're basically saying, I can be a black man and be all kinds of different things and be strange and be out there and like whatever music I like and do whatever the hell I want to do. And, like, that's got to be liberating. Like, are you hoping to instill some of those qualities in some of the people or the black men that see your work?
STANFIELD: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. I think I have no choice but to do that. I know there were many people that I watched, growing up, who were embracing themselves, being true to themselves, which gave me the idea that I could do the same thing, so.
SANDERS: Like who?
STANFIELD: Tupac is a big one for me.
STANFIELD: Somebody who showed the dynamics of what it meant to, like, be a real person but be vulnerable and speak from your heart and be true and that be OK. But I've always felt deep down in myself that I was something and that I was being told I had to be something else. But, I mean, you know...
SANDERS: Huh. What were people telling you to be?
STANFIELD: Whatever they needed me to be, whatever fit their idea of what it meant for me to have dark skin and for me to be a male and all these things. There's this picture me and Brian took at the - I think it was the Critics' Choice Awards or one of those - when Donald had won the award, and we're embracing each other. And then people, they're like, well, what is the - like, you know, it makes people feel weird...
SANDERS: Two black dudes hugging.
STANFIELD: ...To see two black men embrace each other. And that's crazy to me. That's crazy to me. We can't be friends? We can't embrace each other and love each other, like just love each other without all the extra stuff attached to it? Like...
STANFIELD: ...And so that's what I'm interested in living through and living in - just being myself. And it just so happens, cameras happen to be around.
STANFIELD: And people happen to be around watching it. So if you get anything positive in you that invigorates you to do that and embrace yourself, that's beautiful. And I'm glad that I can be that, you know.
SANDERS: Totally. Totally. All right, time for a quick break. Once we get back, we'll talk more about Lakeith's approach to acting and some of the stuff that's coming up for him this summer.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
SANDERS: You know, so much of the work that you do deals with race. When people come up to you and approach you and say hi and possibly want to talk about issues of race in your work, do, like, white people talk about race differently in your work than black people? Like, are people absorbing your work differently, you think, based on who they are?
STANFIELD: I think that's what it is. Yeah, I think some people don't even see it. Some people don't even see race as an issue in anything. And, by the way, it isn't an issue in everything I do.
STANFIELD: But it's, you know, it's just something that I live with and people know that I'm vocal. So if you do want to come talk to me about anything, I'm open to talk about anything...
STANFIELD: ...Anything. You know what I mean? So I think people kind of get that from me for the most - sometimes. I ain't always approachable. If I'm eating...
STANFIELD: ...You know what I mean? I might be like, all right, you know what I mean? But other than that, you know, if it's on a regular funk and we chilling, we can talk about anything and chop it up. As long as you real with me, I'll be real with you. You know, you don't waste my time, I won't waste yours. And this is how it goes.
SANDERS: Words to live by. So talk about your upbringing. You're from Victorville. You grew up there. What was life for you as a youth?
STANFIELD: Fidget spinning.
SANDERS: (Laughter) These are new. These weren't around when you were a kid.
STANFIELD: You find ways to fidget spin.
STANFIELD: Yeah, just sitting around in the desert. I had a pretty interesting family...
STANFIELD: ...Made up of a lot of different characters who in some way I try to incorporate them into - well, I don't even try to. They just make their ways into a lot of my characters.
SANDERS: Which was the most interesting character in your family?
STANFIELD: Probably - damn, that's hard because they're all pretty interesting. I think the most interesting is probably my mom...
STANFIELD: ...For me.
SANDERS: Talk about her. What's her name?
STANFIELD: Her name's Karen (ph). I got the tattoo of her on my left arm above the tree.
SANDERS: There it is. What does it say under that? Karen and then...
STANFIELD: True love of my life. And it's right above this tree that I got, which is - it represents family to me.
STANFIELD: Like, I always wanted to try to create a good family situation. My family's been pretty fragmented and pretty, you know, like anyone's family, like, food fights and stuff around the table.
STANFIELD: So I've been always just trying to work on creating that dynamic that I didn't really have. She would be at the top of that.
SANDERS: OK. What made her quirky and a character and...
STANFIELD: Yes, very interesting character. She probably has, like, 50 different personalities.
STANFIELD: So I guess I kind of pick up on that from...
STANFIELD: ...Her as well.
STANFIELD: And she's just very - has been a very strong staple in our family and then the spine behind everything and always just convinced me to keep going, told me to keep going no matter what, you know.
STANFIELD: So yeah.
STANFIELD: That's my lady.
SANDERS: I love it. Now speaking of you - so you're talking about family. You're going to be starting your own family soon?
STANFIELD: Yes. Yes. I'm building the foundation for it now, you know.
SANDERS: So when is the baby due?
STANFIELD: I can't say.
STANFIELD: Yeah, I'm not at liberty.
STANFIELD: We want to keep everything kind of sacred...
STANFIELD: ...So we're trying to keep it...
STANFIELD: ...Between us.
SANDERS: Well, I'll send good vibes.
STANFIELD: Yeah, it's a really exciting thing.
SANDERS: I bet.
STANFIELD: You know, like I said, it's something I've always wanted to do, and I couldn't be happier with the person I'm involved with.
STANFIELD: I couldn't be happier with - I don't know - the timing. Everything's good. So yeah, I'm just excited to see what I can learn, you know, what...
STANFIELD: ...How bringing this new manifestation will grow me.
SANDERS: Is it going to change your work, do you think?
SANDERS: How so? I guess you don't know yet.
STANFIELD: I don't know yet, but I imagine that there's just this - there's this kind of love you get from that close familiness (ph) that you may not have - I don't know. It's something I feel will maybe deepen my love, which will deepen my passion...
STANFIELD: ...Which will maybe show in my work, hopefully.
SANDERS: Yeah. Talk about this juice you're drinking. You mentioned it earlier. It's charcoal lemonade.
STANFIELD: (Laughter) It's cool, man.
SANDERS: It's cool?
STANFIELD: Yeah, it's...
SANDERS: Let me see it.
STANFIELD: OK, there's activated charcoal...
SANDERS: Which even - what is...
STANFIELD: Some great tattoo artist...
SANDERS: I'm not going to - I'm going to try it.
STANFIELD: OK, good. So some great tattoo artist went to the mountains of (unintelligible), got some charcoal...
SANDERS: That's weird - that's - it's very tart.
STANFIELD: ...Put it in some water, squeezed a lemon in it, put it in a bottle, put it on the counter...
STANFIELD: ...Told me it was $9.
STANFIELD: And I couldn't resist.
SANDERS: Do you feel, like, different and better and amazing because of it?
STANFIELD: I just like the fact that it's black. Like, I like the fact that the liquid is black. It looks cool.
SANDERS: It does look cool.
STANFIELD: And you can see, like, little charcoal debris in it.
SANDERS: (Laughter) Well, let's talk about your movies because I want you to have time - well, because I could do this all day. This is really fun. But I've got to - so OK, "Death Note" is out on August 25. That's a Netflix original.
SANDERS: I saw the trailer. It looks scary, yeah. Then you've got "Crown Heights," which was, like, a Sundance favorite...
STANFIELD: Yeah, man.
SANDERS: ...Out late August. So this is based on a true story, right? It's an 18-year-old man who was wrongfully convicted of a murder...
SANDERS: ...Sentenced to life in prison. It's actually based on a public radio episode, an episode of "This American Life" from back in, like, '05. Have you heard the episode?
SANDERS: What's up with this dude now?
STANFIELD: Chilling. I think I talked to him a couple months ago, actually - no, not to him, actually. I talked to Carl King...
STANFIELD: ...Who's played by Nnamdi in the movie...
SANDERS: And Carl King's character works to get him out.
STANFIELD: Yeah, helps to sort of get Colin out of the situation. And he's good, man. He tells me Colin's doing great. Everybody's feeling good there. Hopefully, getting into more and more ventures that are similar to this...
STANFIELD: ...That can, like, tell - help people tell stories and get word out about things like this. But this film is one of the ones that I still, like, sometimes dream about.
STANFIELD: Yeah, like, being incarcerated and being pursued by authority because it was just a crazy experience existing in those close quarters of those cells for that amount of time. Also, it was an interesting thing to have the real guy, Colin Warner, there on set with me.
STANFIELD: It was quite interesting. I had played real people before, none of which were actually on set. So it was a trip - and none of which had gone through something so, like, crazy. So I was attempting to do as much justice as I could to it and make sure that we told the story honestly and, you know, gave his family something that they could hopefully, like, look at and be proud of.
STANFIELD: If I could be a part of anything like that, it's an honor, so.
STANFIELD: And when we went to the premiere, his family and everyone was up there, had tears in their eyes. And it made me become overcome with emotion because that's why I like to do this because I can communicate and have communion with people who are just like me who may have gone through more unfortunate things or more fortunate things, but we've all got a story to tell. So that's why I love that film.
SANDERS: I'm so excited for the rest of your year.
STANFIELD: Thank you, man.
SANDERS: That's going to be great.
STANFIELD: I appreciate it. This is cool. I like this.
SANDERS: Yeah, man. This is a fun conversation. I've got to make sure I covered all my bases. Give me one second.
STANFIELD: OK. I'm going to sip some more charcoal juice.
SANDERS: (Laughter). One more plug for "Death Note" - how much can you say about that movie without giving it away? It's a horror film. I could not tell what it actually was from...
SANDERS: ...The trailer. That's a good - which means that it's a good trailer. It doesn't give it all away.
STANFIELD: Yeah, dude. I mean, I've seen it and I can't really tell you what category it falls into. It's based on a Japanese manga, which I'm a big fan of.
STANFIELD: I fell in love with all of the characters, one in particular, which I got the honor to be able to play.
STANFIELD: And I'm really, really excited for it. It's great. There's going to be a lot of different turns and a different - like, a lot of different surprises in it I think that people can look forward to. And I'm just excited to get this thing out because I had a lot of fun on it. It was a crazy hard shoot where I had to do a lot of things that were - I never had done before.
SANDERS: Like physically intense or emotionally intense or what?
STANFIELD: Yeah, really. So yeah.
SANDERS: Were there, like, stunts and stuff?
STANFIELD: Yeah, yeah. I done some of my own - like, OK, for instance, there's this part of this character that is simply his posture. That posture, existing in that posture for as long as I did was a stunt in itself.
SANDERS: What's the posture? Can you say?
STANFIELD: It's kind of...
SANDERS: Or will that give it away?
STANFIELD: ...For the fans who know, you know...
STANFIELD: ...What I'm talking about, you know that posture is crazy.
SANDERS: Can you do it for me?
STANFIELD: It's - OK, this is the chair version.
SANDERS: So you've got your feet up on the chair and you're, like, squatting with your head down and your hands over your knees. How long did you have to hold that position?
STANFIELD: Sometimes for hours at a time.
SANDERS: What? Yeah, that would suck.
STANFIELD: Actually, I feel pretty comfortable. I might just sit the rest like this.
SANDERS: You can. You can.
STANFIELD: They say 40 percent of your brain is activated when you sit this way.
SANDERS: Well, I'm going to do it, too, damn it.
SANDERS: OK, here we are squatting up in this.
STANFIELD: Yes. Do you feel smarter?
SANDERS: I do feel smarter. Pull the mic closer to you.
SANDERS: All right, so my producer, just because he's crazy, he was like, why don't you take a call from someone lonely? You know, you put your number out.
SANDERS: Are you down to do that?
SANDERS: How would we do that? We could put it on speaker.
SANDERS: So they called you. So yeah, like, put them on speaker and call somebody.
STANFIELD: OK. Oh, my God, this is crazy. All right, I'm just going to call a random number.
SANDERS: Call a rando. Make sure you're up close enough to the mic.
STANFIELD: All right, let me...
SANDERS: You've got to adjust the (laughter).
STANFIELD: I'm going to call a random person. I don't know if they'll answer, but...
SANDERS: We going to see.
STANFIELD: ...We will see. I'm going to call the most recent one that called me I think. Whoa, they called at, like, 6 a.m. That's crazy.
SANDERS: You got it on speaker?
(SOUNDBITE OF PHONE RINGING)
STANFIELD: It's kind of low.
SANDERS: Hold it a little closer to the mic.
JOJO: Hi. Who is this? Hi.
STANFIELD: This is Lakeith. You called me at, like, 6 a.m. (laughter).
JOJO: Oh, my gosh, yes. You're the guy from "Get Out." Oh, my gosh.
JOJO: This is Jojo (ph). Oh, my gosh.
STANFIELD: Yeah, you might be on the radio right now, just so you know.
SANDERS: (Laughter) Tell her where you are.
JOJO: I'm on the radio?
STANFIELD: Yeah, I'm at NPR right now doing an interview and playing with a fidget spinner.
JOJO: Oh, my gosh, I love NPR. Shoutout to NPR.
SANDERS: Shoutout to...
SANDERS: ...NPR. What what.
STANFIELD: Yes. Well, I just wanted to call you and wish you well, and I hope you're not lonely.
JOJO: Oh, thank you so much.
STANFIELD: Yeah, what's...
JOJO: You know, I just got home from college for the summer.
STANFIELD: Oh, OK, nice. How is that?
JOJO: It's good. I'll be a senior in the fall, so, you know.
STANFIELD: You got them grades up?
JOJO: I think so.
STANFIELD: What is your name?
STANFIELD: Jojo. Well, it's nice to meet you. And I hope this conversation has made your day a little less lonely.
JOJO: It did. It's made my day. I was just like, who is this calling? Oh, this has made my day. Thank you so much. Oh, my gosh. Please keep in touch.
JOJO: You're playing the best - like, your part in the movie was the best. Oh, my gosh. And then "Atlanta," shoutout to the show "Atlanta."
STANFIELD: (Laughter). Shouts out.
JOJO: That's the show.
STANFIELD: Thank you for watching everything. You're awesome.
JOJO: Thank you. Well, enjoy the rest of your day and the beautiful weather.
STANFIELD: Yes, I'm about to go dance in the sun. Peace, darling.
JOJO: Talk to you soon.
STANFIELD: All right. She's like, talk to you soon.
SANDERS: She's like, you going to call me back. You going to call me back, Lakeith (laughter). That was awesome.
STANFIELD: Yeah, man.
SANDERS: That was awesome. Well, I mean, we've fit in charcoal lemonade, fidget spinners, fun phone calls with strangers, squatting in chairs. I feel like we've done it all in this interview.
SANDERS: Can you hear that? See, mine is noisier. Listen. Mine's getting a little rusty.
STANFIELD: You lucky. Yes, fidget spinning, drinking charcoal and talking to the homies.
SANDERS: NPR. I think we're done.
STANFIELD: Nice, cool.
SANDERS: Thank you, sir.
STANFIELD: Peace and love.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
SANDERS: Lakeith Stanfield - great guy. Lakeith, shoutout, thank you so much. Check out all of his movies. This summer, he's going to be in "Death Note," also in "Crown Heights." And please, if you have not already, go see "Get Out." It's so good. All right, tell your friends about the show. Get other folks listening. Review us on iTunes. Subscribe. All these things help people find the show. All right, back on Friday with our wrap on the news and the culture and everything of the week. Thank you for listening. I'm Sam Sanders. Talk soon.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.