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David Oyelowo stars in ‘A United Kingdom’

Kam Williams
David Oyelowo stars in ‘A United Kingdom’
David Oyelowo as Seretse Khama and Rosamund Pike as Ruth Williams in the film “A United Kingdom.” (Photo: Photo: Stanislav Honzik/Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation)

David Oyelowo is a multiple Golden Globe- and Emmy-nominated actor and producer who has quickly become one of Hollywood’s most sought-after talents.

Later this year he’ll be seen in the third film from the Cloverfield horror franchise and as the lead in an as-yet untitled Nash Edgerton film co-starring Charlize Theron, Joel Edgerton, Thandie Newton and Amanda Seyfried.

On the web

To see a trailer for “A United Kingdom,” visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pX5vI4osR50

Oyelowo gained international acclaim in 2014 starring as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Ava DuVernay’s “Selma.” For his performance, he nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama.

Most recently, he starred opposite Lupita Nyong’o in Mira Nair’s “Queen of Katwe,” earning a NAACP Image Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor. His many additional film credits include “Interstellar,” “A Most Violent Year,” “Captive,” “The Butler,” “Lincoln,” “Middle of Nowhere,” “Jack Reacher,” “The Paperboy,” “Red Tails,” “The Help” and “The Last King of Scotland.”

On the small screen, Oyelowo starred in the HBO film “Nightingale” and has collaborated with HBO on several other occasions, including a starring role in Kenneth Branagh’s 2006 production of “As You Like It,” playing Orlando opposite Bryce Dallas Howard, and a lead role in the mini-series “Five Days,” for which he won a Satellite Award for Best Actor in a Miniseries or a Motion Picture Made for Television.

In 2008, he starred in the critically-acclaimed “The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency,” directed by the late Anthony Minghella, and appeared in ABC’s 2008 Golden Globe-nominated production of “A Raisin in the Sun” alongside Sanaa Lathan, Sean Combs and Phylicia Rashad.

A classically-trained actor, Oyelowo recently appeared as the title character in the New York Theatre Workshop’s Off-Broadway production of “Othello.” He got his start on stage in 1999 with The Royal Shakespeare Company, and was the first black actor to play an English king in a major production of Shakespeare, as King Henry VI in RSC’s 2001 production. That performance won Oyelowo the 2001 Ian Charleson Award, presented in recognition of the best classical stage performances in Britain by actors under 30.

Here, he talks about his latest outing, playing opposite Rosamund Pike as an African king who falls for a British commoner in “A United Kingdom.”

What interested you in “A United Kingdom”?

David Oyelowo: The fact that it was a story I felt I should know but I didn’t know. And as I dug deeper, I appreciated the enduring love that Seretse and Ruth had for each other. After I watched the film, I went home and looked up their story as well as the history of Botswana, since I’d known nothing about either. One of the amazing things about this experience for me has been the Google trail. There’s so much to learn about them and African history.

Did you speak to Ruth and Seretse’s descendants in preparation for the role?

DO: Yes, and we even shot on location in Botswana.

Unlike many other actors, you have managed to avoid being typecast. What is your secret?

DO: Becoming typecast is something that can happen very easily, if you are not paying attention. Look, the fact of the matter is that Seretse and Dr. Martin Luther King [in “Selma”] makes it twice in a row now that I’ve played historical, political figures. I’ve got to be mindful of that going forward, despite how much I admire both of these men. You’ve got change it up to have a long career — so I won’t be playing that sort of role in the near future.

How was it working opposite Rosamund Pike? How do you explain the great chemistry the two of you generated on screen?

DO: I had been working on the film for a long time, and it was important to find an actress who shared my passion for the project. When I sent Rosamund pictures of Seretse and Ruth, she had such an emotional and visceral reaction to them, it really gave me a lot of confidence that we would be bringing everything we could to the work. And I think that passion for the project led to the chemistry you see onscreen.

This year, the Academy nominated seven actors of color for Oscars after not nominating any the previous two years. But that must be little consolation to you, since your terrific performance in “Selma” was snubbed.

DO: Well, thank you, but films are for life. Even with what happened with “Selma,” everywhere I go, people have seen that film. And at the end of the day, that’s why you do it. With the passage of time, no one really remembers who was nominated or who won, it’s the film that has to stand on its own two legs. I’m very proud to say that I feel we achieved that with Selma.

With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you’d like to star in?

DO: I always think it’s a bad idea remaking classics. I’m of the mind that it’s best to leave them alone unless you have a very, very fresh point-of-view which is almost never the case.

What excites you at this point in your career? I see you have an untitled project with Nash Edgerton coming up.

DO: Yeah, that’s an action-comedy, which is a very different speed for me. I really loved doing that film. Speaking of avoiding being typecast, I really want to try my hand at some different genres. Action is something I love to watch, and I’ve had fun whenever it’s come my way. I did an action-thriller [“Jack Reacher”]. I really enjoyed that experience, and would love to do something like that again. Comedy is something else I enjoy watching, and would love to do. So, the idea is to just keep mixing it up.

You also have “God Particle” coming up with Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Chris O’Dowd. What’s that about?

DO: It’s a sci-fi [piece] that J.J. Abrams is producing and a wonderful, young director named Julius Onah is directing. As I’m sure you know, because it’s a J.J. Abrams project, if I reveal any more, I’ll be shot in the kneecaps. [chuckles]

When do you feel the most content?

DO: When I’m at home with my wife and kids, slumped on the couch, watching a movie or laughing together.

Let’s say you’re throwing your dream dinner party — who’s invited?

DO: I’d love to have Sidney Poitier, Daniel Day-Lewis, Denzel Washington and Sean Penn over.