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Lakeith Stanfield Proves He’s Here to Stay with ‘Prince Of Cats’

The ‘Sorry to Bother You’ star isn’t going anywhere, not after landing the lead role in Legendary’s newest comic book adaptation.
Lakeith Stanfield Sorry To Bother You
By  · Published on August 1st, 2018

The ‘Sorry to Bother You’ star isn’t going anywhere, not after landing the lead role in Legendary’s newest comic book adaptation.

The world is no stranger to a William Shakespeare adaptation, no matter what form it takes. Apart from basically making Kenneth Branagh’s entire career, the Bard’s works have also proven to be solid, timeless influences on anything from teen comedies of the 10 Things I Hate About You variety to the most indulgent of crime films, a la Romeo + Juliet. They even make for impeccable serial dramas, which includes straightforward adaptations such as the BBC’s The Hollow Crown, as well as “‘Hamlet’ on Harleys,” Sons of Anarchy.

Modern-day Shakespeare translations may play their narratives fast and loose or remain as faithful as possible to their source text, but they are all powerful for the same reason. The strength of Shakespeare’s plays can be found in the richness and realness of his characterization and emotional insight, which make these stories easily adaptable into varying depictions that remain constantly relevant.

Ron Wimberly’s graphic novel “Prince of Cats” is one of the freshest original takes on a Shakespearean classic, and as comic books are wont to do these days, it’s going to be made into a movie. Deadline has the scoop that Sorry to Bother You’s Lakeith Stanfield is due to headline the eponymous film for Legendary, which is being billed as a “Romeo and Juliet” type of adventure with a twist.

“Prince of Cats” is a hip-hop infused version of one of Shakespeare’s most iconic tragedies . Relocated to the streets of 1980s Brooklyn, the comic draws readers into the world of Tybalt, Juliet’s cousin, and follows his exploits as the Capulets feud with the Montagues. Of its stylistic choices, “Prince of Cats” is definitely not short of underground sword dueling and epic music.

Panel after panel, “Prince of Cats” showcases a rich spread of influences beyond Shakespeare too. This comprises video games, ‘80s art, and allusions to folklore in Greek and Japanese traditions. However, part of the vibrancy found in “Prince of Cats” comes from the way its hip-hop rhymes fit seamlessly into the drama of a Shakespearean setting. The flourishes of impeccable poetry aren’t out of place within the grounded and violent American landscape in the story.

Selwyn Seyfu Hinds, former editor-in-chief of the magazine The Source, will adapt “Prince of Cats” for the big screen. Although we’re not so familiar with Hinds as a screenwriter just yet, his upcoming slate already looks extremely promising. Deadline confirms an imminent Zendaya-led vehicle titled Running A Thousand Miles For Freedom in the works with Hinds wielding the pen (which was first announced in 2016). He is further working on the George R.R. Martin-produced coming-of-age drama Who Fears Death, too.

Meanwhile, nothing in Stanfield’s filmography should signal worry. He has gradually made his way up the entertainment industry food chain after featuring in some of the most culturally significant movies in recent years. Stanfield began his onscreen career in 2008, and success was already brewing after his first ever project – the short film Short Term 12, which served as the thesis project of filmmaker Destin Daniel Cretton.

Cretton’s short went on to win the Jury Award for US Short Filmmaking at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. It was eventually made into a feature film of the same name that sported Stanfield’s first big screen role, which he auditioned for after several years of inactivity. The feature-length version of Short Term 12 earned Stanfield a well-deserved Independent Spirit Award nomination among other accolades. His jittery yet intense performance in the film is perfectly heartrending, and absolutely sets the tone for more fabulous, unexpected performances to come.

Vulnerability was Stanfield’s trademark in his early career, and roles both big and small are made more likable and relatable as a result of his emotional candor. The Purge: Anarchy and Selma came out in the same year and are obviously vastly different movies. Yet it’s easy to take notice of Stanfield even when he’s playing a supposedly ruthless hooligan behind a creepy mask, as in the former. He’s given one of the better minor roles in the movie and taps into his easy emotionality to full effect. In comparison, Stanfield’s role as the tragically slain activist Jimmie Lee Jackson in Selma is more straightforwardly sympathetic and heartbreaking, but nevertheless memorable.

Then 2015 brought about Dope, Straight Outta Compton, and Miles Ahead as Stanfield’s most noteworthy projects. The former sees him as a gangster that seems to go against type for Stanfield, although the film’s multiplicities save all of its characters from easy stereotypes. And after Selma, two more biopics would seem like a breeze for Stanfield. On the more conventional side of things, he particularly proved himself by impeccably embodying Snoop Dogg in Straight Outta Compton despite looking nothing like him. In contrast, Miles Ahead is a lot more free-form and experimental with its approach to Miles Davis’ legacy; a weird ensemble piece that provides the first inklings of Stanfield’s quirkier recent offerings.

I’m referring specifically to Atlanta, Donald Glover’s surreal take on the millennial struggle following the trials a young man just trying to do right by the people he loves. The FX comedy-drama features Stanfield as zany supporting character Darius Epps, friend and philosopher to the characters in his periphery who also serves as the perfect oddball gateway into the show’s off-beat palette.

Darius has rightfully become a fan favorite on Atlanta due to the way his good-natured serenity juxtaposes the otherwise pernicious tension found in the lives of other characters on the show. Moreover, Stanfield clearly adores the character for all his idiosyncrasies, respecting Darius’ multifaceted nature enough to consistently deliver a profound performance as the series progresses from season to season.

Then came the year of Get Out and Death Note, which once again unearths the dualities and breadth of Stanfield’s filmography. The guy is clearly up for anything imaginable, even if that means featuring in one of the most important movies of the year as well as an abysmal remake that’s best left forgotten. Stanfield’s most iconic scene in Get Out is one of the eeriest and most outstanding sequences in a movie brimming with unnerving set pieces and high-pressure situations. And as far as Death Note is concerned, Stanfield can rest easy knowing that he is the best performer of the bunch, despite the fact that this particular adaptation is a far cry from cohesive.

Prince of Cats sounds like just the kind of eccentric and vivacious project that Stanfield is ideal for. He keeps on the up and up these days, with the scathingly odd and funny Sorry to Bother You lighting up screens as the most bizarre and thrilling of activist art. Stanfield isn’t neglecting smaller roles either, acting alongside notable names such as Chiwetel Ejiofor and Martin Sheen in the Netflix film Come Sunday. Finally, he will undoubtedly make his way further into mainstream consciousness after Fede Alvarez’s The Girl in the Spider’s Web hits theaters in November. It seems like there is nothing Stanfield can’t do.

Sheryl Oh often finds herself fascinated (and let's be real, a little obsessed) with actors and their onscreen accomplishments, developing Film School Rejects' Filmographies column as a passion project. She's not very good at Twitter but find her at @sherhorowitz anyway. (She/Her)