After an eye opening discussion with his son, Oyelowo turned to directing. He realised he couldn’t rely on Hollywood to find his stories.
The journey of the actor David Oyelowo to the chair took 20 years and a critical discussion with his oldest son.
It was 2015 and Oyelowo had been preparing to perform in the “Queen of Katwe” family movie. His four kids had already visited him on “Selma” set where it seemed that their father could not do anything. It was after all Oyelowo who squeezed his hairline and stood behind the chair, channelling the oratory abilities of the unique Martin Luther King Jr.
Now Oyelowo turned his attention to a Disney film, “Katwe,” and looked forward to letting his son know that his father had finally reached the dream factory of the last childhood.
“I told him and his first question was to me, ‘Wow, Papa, that’s fantastic. Will you play the best friend?'” ” Remembering Oyelowo.
Oyelowo was shocked. The 14-year-old had already done the calculus and figured that if his father, a Black British man born to Nigerian parents, earned a role in a Disney film it almost certainly couldn’t be at the center of the narrative, even if he had just portrayed Dr. King. Though “Black Panther” may have since changed the equation when it comes to Black representation onscreen, the fact that Oyelowo had won the lead role, in a Disney film featuring an all-Black cast no less, hadn’t occurred to the boy.
And that was it. And that was it. Oyelowo had already spent the most of two decades constructing a career that caught the attention of renowned directors like Anthony Minghella, Christopher Nolan and Ava DuVernay, playing roles that rose above the lazy stereotypes often drawn from Hollywood movies. It was all deliberate. As Jessica Oyelowo’s wife explained, “He refused to perform so many roles that Black people painted in any negative light. And not because Black people don’t do bad things or because they don’t do bad things. But because he’s looking forward.”
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