Oyelowo doubles down on real-life roles in ‘Selma,’ ‘Kingdom’
NEW YORK — When he played Martin Luther King Jr. in “Selma,” Britain’s David Oyelowo found himself in a very hot spotlight.
That didn’t stop him from taking a similar plunge as a legendary African king-turned-democratic president in next Friday’s “A United Kingdom.”
“It’s quite hazardous playing real people, especially when they’re people of historical significance, because so many have strong opinions,” Oyelowo, 40, said.
“It’s not like a fictional character where you’re allowed the creative license.”
“United Kingdom” tells a true story of Oxford-educated Seretse Khama (Oyelowo), a tribal African prince about to become king. But in 1947 he met and fell in love with Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike), a white English clerk at Lloyd’s of London.
Their marriage prompted diplomatic and familial crises amid political efforts to separate them.
“For me, playing Khama, it was doing as much research as I could, talking to as many people as I could, and then at some point you’ve got to trust that that’s in there and then go and play the truth of a given situation,” Oyelowo said.
“What does this person that I’ve constructed within me do when he’s introduced to Rosamund Pike’s Ruth? Or when he’s confronted with 3,000 extras and has to talk about his wife?”
His starring roles in “Selma” and “Kingdom” let Oyelowo “have a hand” in hiring Ava DuVernay to direct his MLK movie and Amma Asante (“Belle”) to helm this Khame film.
“I learned how important the person who’s directing’s perspective is. Before Ava, I was never in a scene with Coretta King, his wife, and all the other female roles were cameos. Because she is a black woman who realized how pivotal women were in the civil rights movement, she changed that.”
With “Kingdom,” “I didn’t want it to be just a political film. All the men we met to direct were interested in the politics or ‘This white woman is going to a hot country!’
“Guys,” Oyelowo said with a smile, “this prince is giving up his kingdom for this woman. They were going to marginalize the black characters, and with Amma it was a love story.
“This is a story of two people who let love be the guide, the driver for everything they did.”