On an empty Utah highway skirted by an old cemetery, actor Lakeith Stanfield and I are pulled over on the side of the road, waiting for a cop to come to the door. According to the officer, I was driving 22 mph over the speed limit (he was probably right). He asks for my ID, but curiously, he also requests identification from Stanfield, who’s sitting in the front seat and whose only infraction seems to be existing as a black man. The actor's white manager, Colin Stark, who is sitting behind Stanfield, offers his ID to the officer but is rejected. Instead, the officer asks for Stark’s name and age, and then walks back to his squad car. Just before we were pulled over, on our way back from a snowmobiling excursion along the nearby Mid Mountain trail, Stanfield was happily describing his new Los Angeles apartment, the first place of his own after two years of living with Stark, where he can record music, paint, and “scratch my balls” without worrying about disturbing anyone. Now, the mood is decidedly less light.

“Believe me, if we were all black this would be a different trip,” Stanfield says. 

What the officer won’t see when he runs Stanfield’s ID is that he is one of Hollywood's most promising rising stars. Since his first feature film and breakout role in 2013’s Short Term 12 (based off of a 2008 short film in which he also appeared), Stanfield has been piling up an impressive list of credits as a supporting actor. In Atlanta—Donald Glover’s “Twin Peaks for hip-hop” that premieres on FX in September—he plays Darius, the bizarre and philosophically probing right hand man to the series’ budding rapper, Paper Boi (played by Brian Tyree Henry). In 2014, Stanfield appeared in Ava DuVernay’s Selma as a civil rights protester murdered by the police. Last year, he played a Blood in the coming-of-age comedy Dope and a young Snoop Dogg in the critically acclaimed Straight Outta Compton. In 2016 alone he’s earned credits in the Miles Davis biopic Miles Ahead, Oliver Stone’s Snowden, and the Brad Pitt-starring War Machine. It’s the IMDB page that all the young actors waiting tables in Los Angeles dream of, but with Stanfield you get the sense that this portion of his resume will soon be buried. Even in his smallest parts, he’s too transfixing not to land as a consistent lead. He's finally snagged his first starring role: In an untitled film written and directed by Matt Ruskin, Stanfield will play Colin Warner, a young Brooklynite who was wrongfully convicted of murder and spent 20 years in prison before being exonerated. 

But despite all of his past and upcoming successes, right now, Stanfield is just another black man in America.