Remember how over a year ago, Donald Glover reached a deal with FX to star in and write a series based in the Atlanta, GA music scene? Well, the long awaited project just inched a little closer to reality thanks to the reveal of the principal cast and synopsis. According to a press release, Atlanta will be the story of Earnest “Earn” Marks, a struggle rapper who comes back home to Atlanta to find that his cousin Alfred Miles has already made it big in hip-hop, leaving Marks feeling some type of way about it. Along with Glover and Brian Tyree Henry, who is portraying Miles, the principal cast includes actress Zadie Beetz and fellow up-and-comer Keith Lee Stanfield.
Of all the actors– other than the multi-talented Glover– Stanfield’s is the face you’re most likely to have seen dancing around Hollywood and the underground music scene. Born and raised in California, Stanfield took up acting at 14, playing bit parts in commercials before starring in the short film Short Term 12, which won him some recognition at the Sundance Awards in 2009. He was the only actor to return for the feature-length adaptation of Short Term in 2013, and ever since then has been a part of some notable movies and side projects. You’ve seen him before, whether you realize it or not, and here are 5 chances for you to get in on the ground floor of his career.
5: The Purge: Anarchy
If there’s one thing The Purge franchise has going for it, it’s the marketing campaign that helped the first film gross $33 million on a $3 million budget. The Purger wearing the God mask was the center of the ad campaign for The Purge: Anarchy last year, and many don’t realize that it’s actually Stanfield behind the mask. The role isn’t exactly extensive, but he finds a way to crank up the eeriness of that empty face.
Ava DuVernay’s Selma was a different stripe of biopic that was also a big hit for pretty much everyone involved. If you saw it, then you also saw Stanfield playing the role of real-life activist Jimmie Lee Jackson, who gave his life defending his parents from a bloodthirsty cop in the middle of a diner.
3: “Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)” video
Easily one of the most explosive singles from Run The Jewels 2, “Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)” features Killer Mike, El-P and Zach de la Rocha dropping fiery bars about police brutality and the prison industrial complex, and director A.G. Rojas’ video didn’t veer from the political bent of the song. The video features Stanfield and actor Shea Whigham fighting each other to the point of exhaustion as symbols of the pointlessness of police brutality.
Other than acting, Stanfield is also a poet and MC who makes somber hip-hop with producer HH as the group Moors. Their self-titled EP is the only project they have out for now, but if you’re in the mood for some melancholy and introspective bars and production, Moors may be right up your alley.
1: Snoop Dogg in Straight Outta Compton
Stanfield’s 2015 has consisted of two big cinematic projects: a supporting role in Dope, and later this year, he’ll be playing Snoop Dogg in the N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton. He told Shadow and Act that being offered the role after having grown up listening to the D-O-Double-G was “surreal” and that he only had a handful of hours to study Snoop’s mannerisms and try to nail the part for his audition. He’s one of the only actors I can think of who plays both a Blood and a Crip in a movie in the same year. That’s nuts.