'Judas and the Black Messiah': Dominique Fishback on going beyond playing wife role (exclusive)

Tom Beasley
·Contributor
·3-min read

Watch: Dominique Fishback discusses playing Deborah Johnson in Judas and the Black Messiah

Dominique Fishback says it was 'extremely important' to her that her portrayal of Deborah Johnson in Judas and the Black Messiah was more than just a generic 'wife' role.

Fishback plays Johnson, who was engaged to Fred Hampton at the time of his death, in the movie, which stars Daniel Kaluuya as the Black Panther Party leader and Lakeith Stanfield as FBI informant William O'Neal.

The 29-year-old star, who has earned a Bafta nomination for her performance, tells Yahoo Entertainment UK that she credits writer-director Shaka King for collaborating with her throughout the process, having written the role with her in mind.

"I read the script and I emailed him all of the things that I loved and said I had two thoughts, but I don't want to overstep. He said: 'You'll be playing her, you can't overstep'.

Read more: Daniel Kaluuya discusses challenge of playing Fred Hampton

"I said that one of the first things she says is 'do you like poetry?', and we don't hear a poem so I think we miss an opportunity. The poem in the movie that she says is a poem that I was actually able to write.

Dominique Fishback as Deborah Johnson in 'Judas and the Black Messiah'. (Credit: Warner Bros)
Dominique Fishback as Deborah Johnson in 'Judas and the Black Messiah'. (Credit: Warner Bros)

"The second note was that a lot of times with Black women in love, in particular, in TV and film, we always have to prove ourselves worthy of love.

"We have to stand by somebody through jail, or we get pregnant. It's not like The Notebook, when Noah sees Allie and he just wants to climb on a Ferris Wheel for her.

"I wanted to make sure that we knew that he loved her for her mind and for her essence. She was worthy before she covered his body, before she made any type of warrior gesture that we could see."

Read more: Shaka King defends casting Kaluuya as Hampton

Fishback says she and Shaka King continued to collaborate throughout pre-production, frequently meeting at cafes in Brooklyn to discuss the character and the movie.

"The level of care and consideration he has for all his artists and for my voice was really felt and we really appreciated him for that," she says.

Daniel Kaluuya as Fred Hampton and Dominique Fishback as Deborah Johnson in 'Judas and the Black Messiah'. (Credit: Warner Bros)
Daniel Kaluuya as Fred Hampton and Dominique Fishback as Deborah Johnson in 'Judas and the Black Messiah'. (Credit: Warner Bros)

Fishback shares most of her scenes in the movie with Kaluuya, who she describes as a "great collaborator", who helped to allay her concerns ahead of their romantic sequences.

"He sees people for who they are, and he always meets them where they are. That is such a revolutionary thing in itself," she says.

"Hearing him speak and hearing him take up space influenced me. It galvanised me and it left me open to listen and receive. We were able to ebb and flow.

"We talked about [the kissing scenes] and he was such a great collaborator. Charismatic in himself and super funny."

Read more: Project Power directors reveal how Fishback stole the show

The film also stars Jesse Plemons as O'Neal's FBI handler and Martin Sheen under heavy make-up and prosthetics as the notorious FBI director J. Edgar Hoover.

Judas and the Black Messiah is due to be released via VOD platforms in the UK on 11 March.

Watch: Trailer for Judas and the Black Messiah