Rising star David Oyelowo, who portrays Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in "Selma," admitted to hearing God calling him to the role several years before it happened.
In theaters across the U.S. on Friday, "Selma" follows the months of Dr. King's life leading up to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Although the South was desegregated with the Civil Rights Act, discrimination was still rampant, making it nearly impossible for African Americans to register to vote. In the role of Dr. King in the film, Oyelowo's impeccable performance sheds light on the pastor's fight for suffrage despite violent opposition. The actor said that preparation for the enormous role started with hearing God's voice over seven years ago.
"This journey started for me in 2007 when I first read the script, and the brutal truth is I felt God tell me that I was going to play this role in this film," Oyelowo told The Christian Post. "That was how it started on the 24th of July, 2007. I heard God tell me that."
The 38-year-old actor is just one year younger than Dr. King was when the civil rights leader was assassinated almost 50 years ago in Memphis, Tennessee. Furthermore, Oyelowo (pronounced oh-yellow-oh) is from the U.K., and has the accent to prove it. In spite of the odds against him playing King, the "Lincoln" star immediately began preparing for the pivotal role in "Selma."
"What was so strange about it was I wouldn't pass myself as King in that stage," the actor admitted. "But I know that voice, it guided me through marriage, through my fatherhood and through my career. So what God didn't tell me was that it was going to take seven-and-a-half years, but like David in the Bible, like Moses, and like Jesus ... they knew their calling early on, and then there was a preparation period."
Similar to Dr. King, Oyelowo is a strong Christian, and portraying the historical icon brought out the true meaning of Scripture in his own life.
"The thing I most admire about Dr. King, especially having played him, is that he was a famous orator, so he was famous for his words and talking," Oyelowo told CP. "But what is extraordinary about him is that he wasn't just a talker of the Word, but a doer of the Word. It's one thing to be a Christian and talk of sacrificial love and loving your enemies, following the calling set before you, but it's quite another to walk it out."
"The Help" actor went on to cite that Dr. King endured death threats not only for himself, but also for his wife Coretta and their four children, whom King was away from 28 days out of any given month on his campaign for equality.
"There are so many times when he could have understandably walked away and said, 'I've had enough, people are bombing my house,' but he never walked away from his calling," Oyelowo continued. "So for me, as a Christian myself, it's made me far more aware of the fact that one can't just talk about this stuff, as in the Bible or in church or in Gospel. You have to walk this thing out. That's when you're truly following your calling."
Meanwhile, the Alabamian city of Selma became Dr. King's battleground for ensuring the right to vote. He used a peaceful protest in the form of an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, which caught the nation's attention and ultimately led to President Lyndon B. Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Oyelowo's performance in "Selma" has earned him a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Actor as well as a BAFTA Award nod. The Ava Duvernay-directed film has also already generated Oscars buzz. Also starring Oprah Winfrey, Common, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Carmen Ejogo, "Selma" opens in theaters everywhere on Jan. 9. Watch the trailer here.