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TELEVISION David Oyelowo talks personalities, sexuality in HBO's 'Nightingale'
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times

This article shared 5974 times since Wed Jul 1, 2015
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The HBO movie Nightingale, starring Oscar nominee David Oyelowo ( Selma ), opens with a horrific act—and for the rest of the approximately 90-minute film, he holds court as the only character on the screen, as the viewer sees different layers of his character, Peter Snowden.

Oyelowo recently talked with Windy City Times about different aspects of the movie, including Peter's sexuality, and talked about his own career path.

Windy City Times: Hello, David. I understand you're in South Africa shooting a movie right now?

David Oyelowo: Yes; I'm doing a film right now called The Queen of Katwe. We shot half of it in Uganda, and we're shooting the other half in South Africa.

WCT: And the movie's about someone who's trying to be a world chess champion?

DO: Yeah—it's about a very young girl, discovered at the age of 9, who has a prodigious chess talent. I play her coach who discovers her; her mother, played by Lupita Nyong'o, believes in hard work. It's based on a true story.

WCT: Switching gears, I want to congratulate you on your Oscar nomination. [Oyelowo laughs.] I did talk with Mo'Nique after she won the Oscar for Precious, and she said there's a difference between Black Hollywood and white Hollywood. How have your opportunities been since you were nominated?

DO: Well, the reason I laughed so profusely was about the wacky world of nominating, which speaks to your point. I do think what Mo'Nique said was absolutely right.

Lupita is also a case in point. What is remarkable about her is her prodigious talent combined with her beauty combined with what she represents. She is one of the rare ones whose cachet helps her to transcend what normally happens.

Usually though, there isn't the same kind of success that Jennifer Lawrence might have. There will get many offers and pilot scripts. It just doesn't happen the same way with Black actors. The difference with me is that I've always known that, so I've spent the last 15 years of my career compiling scripts and cultivating relationships. The thing is you don't wait for them to give you the opportunity—you have to show them the opportunity you want to step into. That's what I'm in the midst of; the next film is called A United Kingdom, which I've been developing for five years. After that, I'm going to do a film with [Selma director] Ava DuVernay again. These are all projects that we're doing ourselves; to wait for someone to offer us something is a foolhardy affair.

WCT: I also wanted to congratulate you on Nightingale, and you did something I didn't think was possible: sustain my attention with a one-man production.

DO: [Laughs] Thank you very much.

WCT: I understand you were in character the whole time you were filming. How did the crew react to you? I'd be sitting on the other side of the cafeteria if you were in character.

DO: [Laughs] I suppressed my maniacal tendencies when the cameras weren't rolling but, yes, they basically knew me as Peter. I kept to myself, pretty much. [Judging from the crew's reactions] after we wrapped, that was an indication that I'd done my job. In playing Peter, one of the things I felt strongly about was [the character's] multiple-personality disorder.

WCT: I didn't know you had this incredible singing voice.

DO: [Laughs] I don't know if it can be described as incredible. I do love singing. The film is called Nightingale, and a nightingale is a bird known for its singing, so we're tipping our hat to that.

WCT: With Windy City Times being an LGBT newspaper, I'm wondering if you could talk about how sexuality is a part of this movie?

DO: Well, it's a curious thing. Peter is repressed in so many ways. He's repressed because he was in the military. He's repressed because of a heavy-handed, religious upbringing.

There's Peter's relationship with Edward [an old Army buddy], and Peter's in denial about his own sexuality, [which] I think that's linked to the military and his home life. Peter can't bring himself to admit how he feels about Edward.

WCT: Have there been any talks about moving this production to Broadway? I could definitely see it there.

DO: Wow—you're the first person to ask me that. I could absolutely see it there. There's a theatricality to it, and there's the subject matter as well as the journey Peter goes on. I think you're absolutely right—that is something that could be done. Also, I think mental illness is a very big issue that people are struggling with around the world. I'd go to see it.

WCT: [Laughs] I would, too. My last question is about a quote in the film: "A moment of clarity is the rarest gift we're given on this planet." When do you think Peter has his moment of clarity?

DO: I think his moment of clarity happens when he realizes the gravity of what he has done—the admission and recognition of it. After he does this unthinkable thing, he immediately tries to justify it because he feels he was being taken advantage of and marginalized. The moment he realizes he's created an even greater situation for himself is when he wakes up. Over the course of the movie, he changes himself physically—to the point that, by the end, he's bald. At that point, I think there's acceptance for what he's done.

WCT: By the way, when you win your Tony for Nightingale, don't forget to thank me.

DO: [Laughs] I promise I won't.

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