Updated: Jul 15
David Oyelowo’s portrayal of late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr in Ava DuVernay's movie biopic, Selma (2014), compared to others is peculiar. Truly so, apart from today’s global drive to emancipate African-Americans from systemic racial profiling. Specially against instilled fear of the black persona, which shockingly features in liberal Hollywood.
Such atmosphere explains insistent answers to certain racial questions. When he introduced his white wife, Jessica Oyelowo, his own father reflected, “One day she’s going to wake and realize that you’re black.’ Really because the older experienced a lot of racism in the UK.
Born in England, April 1, 1976 to Nigerian parents, David Oyetokunbo Oyelowo OBE is an English actor and producer. It is not a surprise therefore considering his subtle way of securing black or African interests. He disallows the shortening of his native African name, Oyelowo to fit into host countries or Hollywood, itself.
His return to native Yorubaland, South-West Nigeria nurtured avoidance of what he calls, ‘minority mentality.’ It is ‘…when people say your name is odd…where you’re from is odd…where everyone around you looks like you…has a name steeped in meaning. My name means, “The King deserves respect.” I’m not about to shorten that name.’
Much so his lead and producer roles in British biographical romantic A United Kingdom (2016) drama film: partly shot on location by its director Amma Asante. A true-life romance between Seretse Khama, destined to ascend kingship throne in Botswana formerly Bechuanaland. Seretse and his white British wife Ruth Williams Khama (Rosamund Pike) experienced racial challenges. A United Kingdom, which screened at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival, also opened the 60th London Film Festival.
David intones spirituality, which defines his general attitude to every Hollywood film. He stresses the fact about preparing or saving up for seven years to finally feature in Selma. His ‘spirit-led’ declaration is comparable to seven years of famine resulting in seven years of prosperity. Therefore, making iconic statements in the movies he plays reflects historical roles and functions in the advancement of the black race.
Emboldened by racial and spiritual missions, David declares, ‘When I read the script, I had the deep spiritual knowing that I was going to do this with my life. It took seven years to get here, but I’m just proud that we got it done.’ In another, he recalls: their 35-year-old driver’s, question to his black female assistant “Oh so you will be playing Ruth (Seretse)?”
‘I was taken aback…but the history taught in school is about David Livingstone. It just goes to show the by-product of any colonist, in that instant, a protectorate; residue of colonialism…’
He had also persuaded Ava DuVerney’s directorial role, which offered up a profound relationship that proved the peculiar portrayal of Martin Luther King Jr. Both approached the project with a sense of originality that imbued David’s nuances. Consequently, the Selma screenplay, afforded David’s personal effect on the story. He won a Golden Globe nomination for his performance.
Fate perhaps always positions David Oyelowo; indeed alongside Oprah Winfrey as his mother in The Butler. Oprah recalls their first act together in Selma, ‘…Obviously a brilliant actor…his choice is for the kind of work he does. There’s humbleness, passion and drive that I felt for myself.’ David’s somewhat responds, “I was a beneficiary of seven years of preparation…The opportunity met up with that desire…with Oprah…a spiritual preparation.”
Martin Luther King Jr’s children said, “...for the first time someone’s really captured dad’s essence.” Indeed perhaps to dissuade his father’s opinion of movie actors, ‘Why do you want to be an actor? Why do you want to go and be with all these promiscuous lady-boys?” But would express relieve, when David gained scholarship to study at the Royal College of Arts, London. When he got a scholarship the dad said, “Ah scholar! Now we can tell everyone that you’re a scholar.”
David Oyelowo has over the years enjoyed awards/nominations from appearances in Selma: Globe Awards nominations- Best Motion Picture, Drama (David Oyelowo); Best Director, Motion Picture (Ave DuVeranay) and Best Original Song (Common & John Lennon, ‘Glory.’
He was chess coach in Queen of Katwe (2016). He also played supporting roles in the films Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011), Lincoln (2012) and Jack Reacher (2012). He earned accolades in The Butler (2013)portrayal of Louis Gaines. He was MI5 officer Danny Hunter in British drama series Spooks (2002–2004) and Javert in the BBC miniseries Les Misérables (2018).
Scheduled for stellar appearance in the adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel Americanah, David Oyewole will probably be brought closer home from Hollywood; in Nigeria.