David Oyelowo insists he had to move to America to further his career because of a lack of roles for black actors in Britain.
The 38-year-old actor – who was born in Oxford, southern England – felt he had to ”get out” of the country after his idea for a period drama with a black actor in the leading role was rejected, so he moved to Los Angeles and has since gone on to play Martin Luther King Jr. in the biographical film Selma.
He said: ”We make period dramas [in Britain], but there are almost never black people in them, even though we’ve been on these shores for hundreds of years. I remember taking a historical drama with a black figure at its center to a British executive with greenlight power, and what they said was that if it’s not Jane Austen or Dickens, the audience don’t understand. And I thought, ‘OK – you are stopping people having a context for the country they live in and you are marginalizing me. I can’t live with that. So I’ve got to get out.’ ”
David admits he was left too ”frustrated” by the apparent lack of leading roles for black actors and has called for the industry to make a change to reflect this.
Speaking to Radio Times magazine, he added: ”There’s a string of black British actors passing through where I live now in LA. We don’t have ‘Downton Abbey’, or ‘Call the Midwife’, or ‘Peaky Blinders’, or the 50th iteration of ‘Pride and Prejudice.’ We’re not in those. And it’s frustrating because it doesn’t have to be that way. I shouldn’t have to feel like I have to move to America to have a notable career.”