Judas and the Black Messiah screenwriters Will Berson, Shaka King, Kenny Lucas and Keith Lucas will be honored with the 2021 Paul Selvin Award during the WGA Awards later this month, the Writers Guild said Wednesday.
Taking its name from the late Paul Selvin, who served as general counsel to the WGA West for 25 years, the award is given annually to the WGAW member, or members, whose script best embodies “the spirit of the constitutional and civil rights and liberties that are indispensable to the survival of free writers everywhere.” Past honorees include Charles Randolph, Adam McKay, Dustin Lance Black, and Alex Gibney.
Berson shared screenplay credit with King on the Warner Bros pic, with story credit shared among all four writers. The Judas scribes will receive the award—presented by New Yorker staff writer Jelani Cobb—at the WGA’s joint virtual ceremony, March 21. The pic is also competing for Best Original Screenplay this year.
Directed by King, Judas examines the life and legacy of the late Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya), the revolutionary Black Panther Party chairman from Illinois whose life ended in tragedy after he came under the surveillance of J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI.
In response to the announcement of his recognition by the WGA, Berson paid homage to “a fifth writer” behind his script, “who was the most talented: Fred Hampton himself.”
“He exemplified the vitality and sanctity of free speech—as well its incredible power, which so threatened the status quo. But his words did more than the 19th century labor mantra, ‘Educate, Agitate, Organize,’” Berson said. “Their deepest beauty lay in the capacity to create: ideals, coalitions and praxis.”
Added Kenny Lucas: “The Paul Selvin award is so meaningful because Chairman Fred is such an unsung hero—but he absolutely is one. Once we began working in this industry and began to understand how it works, we knew we had to tell his story.”
Among other accolades recently bestowed upon the drama was a Golden Globe for Kaluuya, who triumphed in the category of Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role.
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