Lakeith Stanfield first turned heads in 2013’s SXSW breakout “Short Term 12,” but 2015 may be the year he becomes truly ubiquitous. After portraying Jimmie Lee Jackson in “Selma,” the 23-year-old actor and musician will soon be seen in Don Cheadle’s “Miles Ahead” and Oliver Stone’s “Snowden,” as well as playing Snoop Dogg in N.W.A. biopic “Straight Outta Compton.” He’ll also play the lead in an untitled true story of a Brooklyn man wrongfully convicted of murder.
How much research did playing Snoop require?
Early on, I think Snoop was a little bit shy, and a bit reserved, but he played it cool. Wherever he went, you couldn’t help but be a bit high by his energy. I saw that in him and tried to channel that into the character. I did have to change up my voice to fit his, go into a higher register. I rap in the film as Snoop as well, so I had to try really hard to get down all of his mannerisms. I had heard his music growing up, obviously, but I wasn’t really a die-hard fan of him or N.W.A, so I had to listen to a lot of it to get a better comprehension and use that to inform the role.
You stayed in character on and off camera in “Short Term 12.” Did you do the same on “Straight Outta Compton”?
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On ‘Short Term 12,’ I did go a bit method, but just because it seemed the best way to portray the role the way I wanted to. Because I didn’t have any formal training, it seemed like I had to be really in it all the time, so that when the camera turned on, I was already there. But now that I’ve done more roles, I’ve seen that sometimes that sort of tactic can be applied, but sometimes it’s not necessary; sometimes it doesn’t work. With Snoop, I did do a little bit of that. I tried to constantly be in his sort of energy, be real cool on the set. (My co-stars) helped me out a bit — everyone referred to me as Snoop. Now, I didn’t leave set still doing Snoop or anything. But a big inspiration for that was just trying to be in a high mind-state a lot of the time, just having that disposition of always being high. It made it very fun.
What was it like working with Oliver Stone?
He was different from anyone else I ever worked with. He’s a really nice guy, a really brilliant guy, and he has this great intuition. There were times on that movie where I wondered if I was doing a good enough job – you always have that paranoia, especially if it’s about a topic like Edward Snowden. You want to make sure you’re being as accurate as you can. But he had a really incredible way of making me feel comfortable, and like I was a part of the team. That is one of the more important qualities for a director that’s overlooked sometimes — everyone needs to feel like they’re an integral part of the film, and not just some little cog in the machine.