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David Oyelowo on Playing MLK: 'I Couldn't Have Done it Without God's Help'

"There is never going to be a time in your life as an actor where you're going to go, 'Oh yeah, I'm ready to play Dr. King now,'" said Oyelowo.
David Oyelowo on Playing MLK: ‘I Couldn’t Have Done it Without God’s Help’
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In perhaps the most important role of his career, David Oyelowo stepped into the revolutionary shoes of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to portray him in Selma.

In what is shaping up to be one of the year’s biggest films, Selma tells the powerful story of the 1965 voting rights march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, led by none other than Dr. King. British-born Oyelowo has already been nominated for numerous awards for his performance, including a Golden Globe for Best Actor. In an interview with The Huffington Post, he revealed where he found the strength to play this hefty role: God.

“What I couldn’t have anticipated is how much I needed, to be perfectly frank, God’s help in the playing of it,” he said in the interview. “Not least because this was a man of God. This was someone, if you’ve seen him giving those speeches, there is something flowing through him other than himself. He is flowing in his anointing. I needed that.”

He said that he has been carrying the weight of the character for the past seven years–from the time he first received the script up until now. He felt the pressure that Dr. King faced on a daily basis: the pressure to give a voice to an entire population, the pressure of having people die while under his instruction, the pressure of having millions of people counting on him.

His hard work paid off–he had the honor of meeting all of Dr. King’s children. In fact, Bernice King, Dr. King’s daughter, told Oyelowo that his portrayal of her father was the best that she had seen.

“There is never going to be a time in your life as an actor where you’re going to go, ‘Oh yeah, I’m ready to play Dr. King now,'” he said.

The Butler star also touched on his appreciation of Ava DuVernay, the film’s director, revealing that she never shouted, never panicked, and never compromised her expectations for the film, which couldn’t make a more powerful statement at a more necessary time.

“I truly believe the reason why this film is so pertinent for right now is that it shows this isn’t the first time,” he said when asked about the film’s timely release. “It shows that we are not a new generation for this and also how it was successfully dealt with. Peaceful protest. Strategy. Using the power of the image to bring the world together.”