Terry Gross interviews David OyelowoJune 2, 2015
David’s films include: “Selma,” he was Martin Luther King – – in “The Butler,” he was the son who was active in the civil rights movement and became a Black Panther – – in “Red Tales,” he was one of the Tuskegee airmen.
David was bullied as a young boy facing racism in London, where he was born, and when he and his family moved to Nigeria to escape the bullying he had been facing, only to eventually return to London. Terry asked him if there were any roles he didn’t want to do?
“I’ve never ever taken a role for money purposes or for some bizarre notion of what may be the kind of career move that would open things up for me. If I don’t believe in it, I can’t do it because I won’t be good in it if I don’t believe in it. (And) roles that basically feed into a kind of stereotype of what it is to be black. Don’t send me your script if you want me to play the black best friend; I just won’t do that. — But you can feel when it’s literally an afterthought; you can feel when it’s like, oh, quick, let’s get some color in here, you know. That I won’t do because it’s disrespectful and I – you know, for me, I’m either part of the solution or I’m part of the problem. So I won’t do that; I won’t do roles that I deem to be stereotypical or caricatures of what it is to be black or even just to be a human being. I won’t do that – I hate horror; I don’t like horror films. I don’t really personally see the value in them. And, you know, also anything that basically is overtly celebrating darkness and to be perfectly honest, sanctioning it; that’s something I can’t personally do. I feel you cannot see the light without darkness but for me, a prerequisite I have for myself is that light must eventually win out. And that’s just what I choose to put out into the world; I believe in it. I know that films affect and shape culture, and I want to put stuff in the world that I feel is edifying as opposed to stuff that is detrimental.”