An artist. A rebel. A thinker. A visionary. Keith Stanfield isn’t one to take the road well traveled. As a young teen in the desert town of Victorville, Stanfield felt the call of acting and signed up to attend John Casablanca’s Modeling and Acting Center, which helped land him commercial representation. They sent him on several auditions, one of which being Dustin Cretton’s graduate film, Short Term 12. The film became a festival smash hit, earning it the Jury Prize in Short Filmmaking at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. Three years later, he was asked to reprise his role for a feature film adaptation.
The film followed in its predecessors footsteps, winning both the official and audience-voted award for Best Narrative Feature. The indie title gained critical acclaim and even received several mentions during end-of-year Oscar buzz, but in the end didn’t make an appearance in the Academy nominations. However, Stanfield received a nod for Best Supporting Male at the Independent Spirit Awards, where he crossed paths with filmmaker Ava DuVernay. He originally mistook DuVernay for a fan, offering to take a photo, until later was introduced to her as the director of Selma. The two had several meetings, after which she brought him on board to the historical drama centered on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“It was a dream come true to be a part of something that actually occurred, something that was so powerful and means a lot to everybody. I don’t think you could ask for a better project. As an actor, you want something that means something,” Stanfield shared of the experience at the film's premiere. He got to work alongside entertainment greats including David Oyelowo, Tim Roth, and Oprah Winfrey, picking up a great deal as an artist from watching the way they work. “I’ve learned less from what they’ve said and more from what they did. It’s just how they carry themselves and finesse through it. It’s not an easy process, especially when you’re making something that you really care about. They went through it with the power that I like to see so it made me feel like I could do that too.”
Most recently, he gained recognition playing Snoop in the summer hit Straight Outta Compton. “When they gave me the opportunity to play Snoop, I was like, ‘This ain’t even real.’ As so I just dove into it with my all and I’m really, really glad to be a part of it.” Up next, Stanfield continues the trend of playing real-life gamechangers. He’ll be seen later this year in Don Cheadle’s Miles Ahead, playing a young trumpet playing grappling with a heroin addiction, followed by a part in Oliver Stone’s Snowden alongside Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Shailene Woodley. Currently, he’s in New York playing the lead in a project centering on Colin Warner, a teen wrongfully convicted of murder and sentence to 20 years in federal prison. Get used to seeing him on the screen, because there’s sure to be more of Stanfield in our future.
story by Jordan Blakeman
photos by Gilles Toucas
grooming by Sarah Dougherty
styled by Franzy Staedter