MANSFIELD — Damien Beauford sat next to him and shared a prison meal. Chris Hahn beat him with a baton outside a cell.
Both Mansfield actors shared scenes with star Daniel Kaluuya in the recently released Warner Brothers film “Judas and The Black Messiah,” a major motion picture that opened nationwide on Feb. 12.
The film, nominated for two Golden Globes by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, includes scenes shot during three days at the former Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield.
The motion picture, directed by Shaka King, is based on real events in Chicago surrounding the 1969 murder/assassination of Illinois Black Panther leader Fred Hampton and the story behind FBI informant William O’Neill, who infiltrated the party on behalf of the federal law enforcement agency.
Both Beauford and Hahn were impressed by Kaluuya, a British-born actor who was nominated for an Academy Award for his work in the 2017 film, “Get Out” and also had a key role in the blockbuster superhero movie “Black Panther” in 2018. He earned one of the Golden Globe nominations for “Judas” in the category of best performance by a supporting actor.
The two local men met Kaluuya when the film crew was at OSR in November 2019. The bulk of the film was made in Cleveland over 41 days, starting in October.
The historic reformatory in Mansfield was used to represent the Illinois state prison in which Hampton spent time for allegedly assaulting and robbing an ice cream salesman.
Beauford, the 34-year-old owner of the 419 Barbershop on Park Avenue West, sat next to Kaluuya for about 20 takes of a prison chow hall scene of “beans with turkey meat and some bread.” It’s not the first OSR film experience for Beauford, who also appeared in a 2019 music video by country music star Eric Church.
Ironically, the barber/actor was deemed a little too clean cut by movie makers, who added “glued on” hair to his head, sideburns and beard to capture the late 1960s look.
After the meal scene, Beauford, the 31-year-old Kaluuya and other inmates walk single file from the chow hall. As an extra who also worked as a stand-in, Beauford said he was reluctant to talk to the busy star between scenes, but then noticed other extras interacting with him.
“At one point, we’re standing against a wall and I told him, ‘I really admire your work. You’re a great actor. I love what you’re doing.’ He thanked me and said he appreciated it. I asked him what was next for him. He said, ‘I’m tired. I’m ready to go home,'” Beauford said.
Beauford, who has starred in local stage productions of “The Black Cyclone,” the story of Charles Follis, said participating in the “Judas” movie provided great networking opportunities for future work.
“They were telling me commercials is where the money is, but (but work as an extra or stand-in) is a good place to get your foot in the door,” Beauford said.
The 50-year-old Hahn, who played a prison guard in the film, had a slightly rougher interaction with Kaluuya. He “beat” the star with a nightstick outside a cell at OSR.
Hahn, who spent more than 20 years as a professional wrestler, described the film star as down-to-earth and hands-on.
“He had a stunt double, but he wanted to do that scene himself to make it look as realistic as possible,” said the 6-foot-2, 250-pound Hahn, who now has a growing list of film credits as an actor and stuntman.
“We did an hour or two of stunt rehearsal,” Hahn said. “We padded him up a little with a chest protector and then we shot the scene. The baton was foam, but it had a metal rod in the middle. They took a lot of time to select camera angles to get good facial expressions and the best lighting.
“A lot of times actors come in and they are full of themselves,” said Hahn, who also works as a personal trainer at the Mansfield Y in addition to his film work. “Not him. He’s a great guy. Very humble.”
It’s another in a string of films and music videos using the former reformatory, a movie history highlighted by “The Shawshank Redemption,” made in 1994. Film makers who need a prison are attracted to the architecture and availability of the 125-year-old prison. Other movies include “Air Force One,” “Tango and Cash,” “Harry and Walter Go to New York” and “Escape Plan: The Extractors,” which came out in 2019.
Dan Smith, associate director of the Mansfield Reformatory Preservation Society, said revenue from such films goes directly toward restoration efforts at the 100 Reformatory Road site on the city’s north side.
“It’s really important to us,” he said. “It helps us preserve the society for today’s visitors and future generations. Plus, the notoriety that comes along with new productions like this keeps us in people’s minds. It’s really a win/win on all fronts for us. We are always happy to have (filmmakers) come here.”
He said film commissions in Cleveland and Columbus, benefitting from the Ohio Film Tax Credit, know OSR is a welcoming venue for any movie that needs a prison theme or scenes.
“We have a good relationship with them. They know we embrace filming,” Smith said, estimating a crew of between 100 and 150 people came to OSR for the “Judas” movie. “It was a pretty big production.”
Smith, who saw the movie in the theater on Saturday, said it was rewarding to see the final product, even though the OSR scenes were only about five minutes of the total film.
“I really enjoyed it,” he said. “It’s always cool to see the movie being filmed and how the filmmakers put their own spin on the building. They spend a lot of time with lighting, makeup and figuring every camera angle. It’s a lot of work for a very quick turnaround.
“Based upon the time they spent here, knowing how many days they were in production, I had an idea it would only be a few minutes. But it was great to see.”
Smith, who started at OSR in 2015, said he couldn’t talk about any current deals that may be in the works.
“I can tell you we get a lot of calls … a lot more than we used to,” he said. “It was great to have a film here by Warner Brothers, which owns ‘Shawshank.’ That’s a great connection for us to have.”
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