Starting his career as an extra on a hit TV show, Darrell Britt-Gibson has emerged onto the Hollywood scene.
Landing roles on critically acclaimed films and television shows such as Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri and Power. One of the films Gibson has appeared gave him a new perspective into acting, playing a real-life person Darnell Houston.
Unknowingly this role would prepare him to play another historical individual in Judas and The Black Messiah. It was in this role that Gibson found a sense of responsibility to capture the essence of the Black Panther member.
Darrell Britt-Gibson sat down with The Knockturnal to discuss the role, as well as secret talent that just scratched the surface in his rising career.
He also stars in Lionsgate’s Silk Road opposite Jason Clark and Nick Robinson out Feb. 18. Additionally, he is a musician. He is the lead of a group called SHE TAUGHT LOVE. They are currently in the process of completing their EP.
Judas and the Black Messiah, now in theaters & streaming on HBO Max.
Darrell Britt-Gibson: So a dear friend of our families, who actually passed away, David Mills wrote for a TV show the Wire. And I sort of didn’t know what I wanted to do. And you know, people would say, Oh, you should act. And I was like, Yeah, I mean, acting is cool, because I make people laugh or whatever. But I didn’t really think of it as a profession. So he got me an audition. And I had like, booked a one day co-star role. No name, character was just like, I think it was like, drug mule if I’m not mistaken. And so I did that. And then a couple weeks later, I got a call from casting. And they were like, hey, they want to see you for these two separate roles. And one was a sandwich guy or sandwich boy, and something else. And I remember doing something crazy in the audition. And I was thinking, Oh, my God, I was literally doing what was on the page, and he jumped over and he did something wild. And I remember thinking, well, that’s the last time I’m ever going to be in a room, you know, I was blessed to have an opportunity to play somebody real. In the film, just before this was Just Mercy, I played a man named Darnell Houston. But this was a little different. It was interesting. It’s a lot of research, day and night, day and night, wake up with the research that you’re given, that you can find, because unfortunately with the Black Panther Party, so much of it is scrubbed from our history books. And it’s by design, because they don’t want us to learn about the incredible things that these women and these men did on a daily basis. I’m so thankful to my beautiful parents, because they educated me on the Black Panthers in our history and my history. But it was a lot of research. And I would listen to a few YouTube clips of him that I could find. So I would turn those into mp3 and just put them in my head and just go work out with them. Like, run with them driving the car with them, because I knew that, it’s not so much about trying to steal, take the voice, it’s about the essence of somebody. And when you hear somebody speak so passionately the way that he speaks so passionately, you try to find the essence of that and sort of create this thing, and it’s such an obligation. It’s such an honor, you know, because you’re playing with somebody’s life, this is real life. And there’s an obligation to get it right. So it was a tireless amount of work, but just putting all the love that I could into it, and all the research that could ensue it. It’s truly a labor of love, but it’s one that I’m so blessed to have been chosen to do this.
The Knockturnal: Were there things on set or during the process of making this film that you learned that you didn’t know?
Darrell Britt-Gibson: Absolutely, I think every day was an education. I mean, because no matter how much you study, and how much you research, they did so many incredible things, that every day, I’m still learning new things about the Black Panther Party. And we were fortunate enough to have Chairman Fred Hampton Jr. on set, who was the son of Chairman Fred Hampton. He was on set every day. So just being able to soak up his knowledge and his intellect. I mean, he is truly a remarkable human being. And so I try to absorb every word that he would say to me, and I still speak to him today. I’m so fortunate to be able to speak to him today, because he’s truly a special human being. So every day you’re learning something new, every single day and you’re just a better person for it.
The Knockturnal: How was the contrast between having their roles was it a similar process? Was it a different way? Did you pick up maybe a skill set from Just Mercy and bring it into the new film? What was the contrast in playing these two parts?
Darrell Britt-Gibson: So it’s interesting so with Just Mercy there is a 60 minutes piece that is sort of detailing the entire story and in that 60 minutes piece, there is a 11 second clip of Darnell Houston speaking, and that was the only footage that I had. That was all that I had to work with. So it was just, you know, listening like repetitive, repetitive listening to it, listening to it, watching it. Listen, watch, listen, watch, listen. And I remember Destin when the first time that the director came to the trailer, and I was just listening to it. He’s like we listened to and I was like, I’m just listening to this thing that I’ve made an mp3 of. And it’s just repetition, you know. And I really just, I think what I took from just mercy that I carried on to Judas was the significance of what you’re doing, that this is not a game. And I knew that going into them, both of them, but all the prep work you do when you step on set, and you put those clothes on and you step out there and they say, action, you’re like, what you feel something and if you’re blessed enough, you feel sort of the ancestors walking with you, giving you that push, and giving you that thumbs up, that you’re doing it justice. So it’s just more of like how the importance and the significance of it, but also understanding the privilege of being the vessel chosen to portray these human beings and the responsibility that comes with that.
The Knockturnal: I know you and when I first got this interview, I was like, Oh, yeah, he’s an actor. Like, I had no idea that you did music. Talk about an incredible second hustle. What’s that process? How did you even get involved in music?
Darrell Britt-Gibson: Oh, man, first of all, just and that warms my heart. Like, seriously, thank you so much for that. It’s funny. So with the music, my bandmate Adam, our band, She Taught Love. We met like, through a mutual friend like a while ago, he was like, Yo, both of you make music. Maybe I should link and you all could vibe on some music. And it’s one of those things that you never know, because making music with someone because music is so intimate. You know, it’s so personal. So you never really know, if you’re going to vibe with somebody, and I remember, I went over to his crib, and I was like, we’re gonna listen to some music. And he got the Amy Winehouse record. And he puts it on and he’s like, I’m gonna play my favorite track. And I said, yo, my favorite Amy Winehouse song is and as soon as I’m about to open up my mouth and say Love is a Losing Game. He plays, Love is a Losing Game. And I said, this is my musical person. And ever since then, we’ve just been making music and we were kind of on and off with the music, but then we’re like, we really just love this music. We love the music that we’re making. We’re passionate about it. So it’s really time to go full force with it. So it’s really exciting.
The Knockturnal: So you talked about earlier the idea of walking in his shoes and in his physicality in his life. What would you say to someone who wants to walk in your shoes one day?
Darrell Britt-Gibson: To make it better than I did. You know, to build upon whatever they think I built, because I think everybody who comes after should be doing better. Right? And so if anybody wants to do what I’m doing, I hope that they make it better than I made it. And I hope I’m still around to be a resource for that person, you know, because that’s really what it is. This whole thing for me is about, what do you leave behind? You don’t take this money with you, don’t take cars with you. You don’t take your house with you. You leave your legacy behind though. You get to take that with you. And so I hope that they make it better.