In some ways, LaKeith Stanfield’s Bill O’Neal is responsible for the sad ending of Judas And The Black Messiah. Facing five years in jail for impersonating a federal officer and attempting to steal a car, O’Neal opts to instead infiltrate the Black Panthers. He thinks he’ll just feed a little information back to the feds before going on his merry thieving way. That’s not how it works out, though, and the feds in the film end up lording that jail time and, ultimately, the threat of outing him to the Panthers over O’Neal’s head, leading to him ultimately having a hand in the death of Panthers leader Fred Hampton.
In reality, O’Neal’s story had a tragic end—one that’s featured in the post-script of the movie. But how could he do what he did? Why didn’t he just take the jail time and walk away? In the video above, The A.V. Club talks to Stanfield about what he thought after having spent some time in O’Neal head.
Judas And The Black Messiah is streaming now on HBO Max.