Breaking: Keith Stanfield
Making the trip from Selma to South Central with the Straight Outta Compton actor.
BACKSTORY: Along with emcee work in rap/production duo Moors and dishing up reputed remixes of songs by James Vincent McMorrow and Baths, Stanfield also has some serious acting chops
FROM: Born in San Bernardino, California; raised in Riverside and Victorville; spent the early part of his adulthood up north in Stockton, living with his pops; currently resides in Los Angeles
YOU MIGHT KNOW HIM FROM: His breakout, Independent Spirit Award-nominated role in Short Term 12
NOW: Fresh off playing a pivotal part as civil rights activist Jimmie Lee Jackson in Selma, Stanfield is appearing as Snoop Dogg in the N.W.A biopic Straight Outta Compton
Keith Stanfield grew up in a poor, dysfunctional household in the outskirts of Los Angeles that Star Lines tour buses dared not reach. Last year, he found himself chilling with Oprah before shooting a movie that would later be up for Best Picture at the 2015 Academy Awards.
“She bonded with us at Selma rehearsals,” he says of Winfrey, one of the film’s producers. “Off-set, I had time to sit down with her and introduce her to some of my family. It was difficult to articulate.”
He adds: “I”ve been rolling with the punches and trying to enjoy myself, which at times I find to be sort of difficult.”
It all began when Stanfield was fourteen years old and, on a whim, jumped online to scope out acting schools. After wasting a fair amount of money and time on various opportunities that may or may not have been scams, he was eventually invited to the John Casablancas Centers, a training system for upcoming models and actors.
When Stanfield got there, he quickly discovered that he had already graduated to the next level—in his own mind, at least.
“I had another level of perception, in terms of acting in more subtle ways,” he says. “They taught us, ‘Don’t look at the camera.’ Well…duh!”
Stanfield even figured out method acting by accident.
“I just figured I’d be the same way on and off the camera; I’d take on the disposition of the character, so that way it’d be more natural when I acted,” he says.
After acting school turned out to be an almost-bust—he didn’t learn much, but he was signed by an agency manager and started auditioning for commercials thanks to his stint there—Stanfield relocated to Northern California to live with his father and take on some odd jobs, like working as a sales rep for AT&T and harvesting seeds at a legal marijuana facility.
He didn’t even own a phone when he got the call to reprise his role for the feature-length version of the short film Short Term 12. Only a bit later, the then-twenty-two year old (now twenty-three) found himself working on what would become one of the most talked-about movies of 2013.
“When I first walked up to the set, I was blown away by the scope of it,” he says. “I didn’t expect it to be so big. I felt like a kid. But all these really down-to-earth people made it really easy for me.
“I’ve learned so much in such a short amount of time and had the privilege of working with so many people,” he adds. “I’ve enjoyed the experience and been humbled.” FL