Why David Oyelowo may be the first actor of Nigerian origin to win an Oscar with ‘Selma’

Nigerians around the world were gutted earlier this year when British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor lost out at the Oscar’s in the Best Actor category for his role in 12 Years A Slave. However, 2015 is looking like the year it may finally happen, as another British actor of Nigerian origin has been tipped for Oscar glory for his role in what many are calling the movie of the season ‘Selma’.

David Oyelowo carries the huge responsibility of playing Dr Martin Luther King Jr. during the height of the civil rights movement in 1965. Directed by Ava DuVernay, the film follows Dr King during a tumultuous three-month period as he led protests from Selma to Montgomery in an effort to secure equal voting rights for black people. The movement, which was largely peaceful, but violent and dangerous a times, led to then President Lyndon B. Johnson  signing the voting rights Acts of 1965.

david oyelowo Selma

The film has already received raving reviews from critics who hail Oyelowo’s performance in the movie as Brilliant, with Vanity Fair more or less saying he was guaranteed to win the Oscars for Best Actor in 2015.

Born and raised in Oxford, England to Nigerian parents, Oyelowo said he’s always dreamt of playing the role of Dr Martin Luther King although, he admits it took a while for him to get ready for the role. 7 years ago, the actor had pitched the role to Oprah who’d told him, she could definitely see something in his performance, but that he ‘wasn’t there yet’. Looking back, Oyelowo says he agrees. ‘I wouldn’t have casted me as Dr King back then,’ he says.

So he went to work, Throwing himself into work in box office hits including ‘The Butler’, ‘Interstellar’, ‘Lincoln’ and ‘Planet of The Apes’. The 38-year-old says it was acting in these previous roles that prepared him for what must be the role of a lifetime. “One of the amazing things for me was the journey I went through in order to get to this place,” said Oyelowo.

“I had the privilege of being in films like Lincoln, in which I played a Unionist soldier, I played a preacher in The Help, I played a black fighter pilot in Red Tails, I played the son of a butler in The Butler. And who was in the sit-ins, in the freedom rides, became a Black Panther, you know, all these things also went into this portrayal.”


“So I kind of feel like in the seven years since I read the script, I was on this journey towards this and now, it culminated in the right people coming together to make the film.”

The born again actor who isn’t afraid of expressing his faith as a Christian, says a higher power called him to play the role. At a press conference for the movie last week, Oyelowo who had to gain weight for the role said he was able to approach Dr King as a man rather than an icon.

“You know, I am so full of admiration, in terms of what he did, and I am not him, but the thing that I could seize upon was he was a father of four, as I am, he was a Christian, as I am, he was someone who valued justice, as I do, and those were my entry points.”

Selma was produced by Oprah who also stars in the film along with Carmen Ejogo, Tom Wilkinsona and Common. The movie is currently showing in selected cinemas in the US, and will be in UK cinemas February 6th 2015.


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