He’s a man that seems capable of taking on any role but there seem to be two types of characters that he has no interest in playing in the future—the “Black best friend” and taking on Martin Luther King Jr. for a second time.
When Oyelowo was catapulted to international fame and given a global platform, he decided to follow the footsteps of his famous Selma role and remain an active, powerful champion for the Black community. With the lack of diversity in Hollywood and the stereotypical roles that are usually reserved for Black stars, Oyelowo has made it a point to turn down such opportunities.
“Don’t send me your script if you want me to play the Black best friend,” he said in a recent interview with NPR. “I just won’t do that.”
It’s because, according to Oyelowo, those roles are typically nothing more than afterthoughts and show no desire to actually bring diversity to the stories that are told in the mainstream media.
“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,’” he added. “That I won’t do because it’s disrespectful and, for me, I’m either part of the solution or I’m part of the problem.”
It’s a message that comes shortly after the star also criticized the UK film industry for its lack of Black protagonists taking on heroin roles in movies.
But his reason for not wanting to take on the role of Martin Luther King Jr. again isn’t rooted in any disdain for Hollywood or a lack of appreciation for the role. While Oyelowo has noted in the past that he was truly grateful for the opportunity to take on the lead role in Selma, he isn’t interested in reprising that role.
“I was at an event for AFI during award season and Steven Spielberg—who famously has been interested in making his own Martin Luther King film—came up to me and said, ‘My goodness, David, that’s one of the best things I have ever seen,” Oyelowo told Esquire.
He said that the now iconic director felt “inspired” by the role and was hoping he would be willing to play King again for his own film.
At that time, Oyelowo failed to come up with a definitive response but clarified his feelings in the interview.
“To be honest, right now, today I couldn’t think of anything worse,” he explained. “Just the weight gain alone is a reason for me to stay away from it!”
Of course, Spielberg is known for his persistence with casting and has a history of going after the stars he truly wants until they eventually agree to the role.
So seeing Oyelowo reprise the MLK role isn’t completely out of the question, but it’s safe to say that he won’t be playing the best friend in any popular buddy film any time soon.