It takes an abundance of courage and humility to acknowledge your mistakes and then beg for forgiveness from the one wronged. Yet, this is precisely what happened to the character of actor and producer David Oyelowo in the real life movie “Captive.” As the vengeful murderer Brian Nichols, he is among the few devout Christians in Hollywood. Not one to judge others, Oyelowo shared that at first glance, the role repelled him, however, “What I can’t do is judge him (Brian Nichols).”
Oyelowo’s presence in major motions films such as “Lincoln,” “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” “The Butler” as well as the HBO movie “Nightingale” and numerous other projects throughout Britain, makes him a familiar face on the big screen. He played the coveted role of Rev. Martin Luther King in “Selma,” receiving a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Actor (Drama) and a Critics Choice Television Award for Best Actor in A Miniseries for “Nightingale.”
After filming “Captive,” a true story based on radical transformations made after reading “The Purpose Driven Life,” Oyelowo is more than confident that his purpose in life is “to nourish others. The more you find your own purpose, the more the people around you are nourished by that purpose.” An accomplished writer, the talented Oyelowo spoke with JET about the juxtaposition of his recent character portrayals and his examination of his role in the movie “Captive.” He also explained how his faith and desire to always make sure the light of God shines brighter than any darkness keeps his feet firmly planted on the ground.
JET: Was it difficult to transition from portraying a non-violent character to a vengeful murderer?
David Oyelowo: Yes it was. In order to play any real-life character, what you have to do is understand who they were and very much place yourself within them and how they thought — who they were spiritually, emotionally, physically you have to entertain all of those things. When it’s Dr. King, that [was] a real privilege for me. I’m a huge admirer of [Dr. King]. With Brian Nichols, what he did that day was reprehensible, but what I can’t afford to do in playing him is judge him. I’ve got to try and understand why he did what he did and how he justified doing those things on that day in order to try and play him truthfully. That was a tough job for me. For obvious reasons, what he did that day is not anything that anyone would be in a rush to play.
JET: Explain your ability of not glamorizing this character.
David Oyelowo: In terms of being repelled in relation to Brian Nichols, it was what he did. There are people whose lives are forever changed for the worst. The lives he took that day, any repulsion I feel is on their behalf as well. The other part of it is that on that day, Brian Nichols, the way he looked and what he had done—killing four people and running around, in a movie context—it is very easy to glamourize that. Unfortunately, in a lot of movies, the Brian Nichols characters would be the real heroes. My job was to absolutely not do that because of what he did in the real world and how reprehensible it was. [My job was] also to fight against the cinematic stereotypes that are out there in terms of what we see in our heroes. It wasn’t just me, but the filmmakers because of the respect we wanted to pay to those who had suffered a huge loss from what had happened.
JET: Was it hard to get out of character?
David Oyelowo: Between my faith and my family, I’m pretty grounded. Going back home to my duties with my children helps keeps me grounded. It does take a little prayer.
JET: Did The Purpose Driven Life have a real affect on you?
David Oyelowo: It showed how God’s purpose for us is so much bigger than we see for ourselves. Her [Ashley Smith] vision for her life was very dim and bleak. She never took meth ever again. She remarried, got her children back and is a spokesperson to help others not take meth. To me that’s evidence of God’s purpose for your life being bigger than anything she saw for herself, which is what the book is about.
Effie Rolfe is a media consultant, personality and speaker. For years, she was the “voice of inspiration” each Sunday morning and middays on Chicago radio. She also speaks at schools, churches and workshops. Effie writes for several publications and is the author of The K(N)ots Prayer. Visit her Website effierolfe.com; like her on mseffierolfe.com and follow her via @effiedrolfe.