David Oyelowo Explores His Spirituality in ‘Selma’

Christianity Today chat with David Oyelowo about his leading role in the highly anticipated movie, Selma.

Oyelowo plays Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the time he led the march from Selma to Montgomery during the Civil Rights Movement. And while Oyelowo’s career does thrive off acting, he attributes his faith to allowing him to deeply connect with a character of that caliber who shared the same faith. Neither were shy in their beliefs.

Oyelowo on…

…when he formed a relationship with God:
“I became a born-again Christian at the age of 16, and my spirit didn’t doubt it.”

…playing MLK in Selma:
“On the 24th of July, 2007, God told me that I was going to play Dr. King in this film. The reason I know the date is that it was a real surprise to me. I’m not American, I’m from England, and I’d only just moved from America two months before reading the script. The idea that I would be the one to play Dr. King was, to be honest, a bit shocking to me.”

…the spiritual atmosphere on the set of Selma:
“There’s a point in the film where there’s a speech I give from the Capitol set right at the end of the film and the production designer had put a lectern there for me to do a speech from. And he just didn’t feel it was right—it felt like Dr. King should be doing that speech from a pulpit.

So he walked to Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, which is just a few hundred yards away from where we were shooting that scene and asked them if they had a pulpit we could borrow. They said, “Well, you can’t have the one that’s in the actual church, but we found this pulpit in the basement two days ago. You can use that one.”

And then we found out it was the actual pulpit Dr. King gave that actual speech from. These events we’re showing in the film happened fifty years ago. At any time in those intervening years could that pulpit have been found. Things like that happened so many times. It was like God was winking at us.”

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