David Oyelowo On Racial And Gender Bias In Hollywood: ‘I Will Always Be An Advocate For Diversity’

David Oyelowo is at TIFF, starring in not one, but two films directed by women.

Appearing in “Queen Of Katwe” directed by Mira Nair and “A United Kingdom” directed by Amma Assante.  It’s no coincidence that the British actor is appearing in female-helmed film – since appearaing in Ava DuVernay’s “Selma”, Oyelowo has made it his mission to work with more female filmmakers.

“I watched how perspective from your own racial bias can impact a film,” Oyelowo tells The Guardian about his time working on “Selma”. “Working with Ava was definitely the moment where something I knew to be true was manifested in reality.”

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“I am richer as an artist for my journey with these women,” he says of his filmography.

It was Oyelowo who brought “A United Kingdom” to director Assante, after seeing her 2013 film, “Belle”.

“I very keenly wanted a woman to direct this film,” the actor says of the project. “I just feel like if God, in his divine plan, made it that pretty much the population is 50/50 of men and women, why it should be below 10% of women behind the screen, when we have this cultural medium that is so influential, so impacting, so educational, so inspiring. Why the female voice is actively, intentionally being dumbed down and marginalised.”

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He continues, “It’s absolutely inexcusable. We are all the richer when we decide, ‘You know what? Not on my watch.’ I will till the day I die be an advocate for the d-word: diversity.”

It’s not just about seeing more women behind the camera.  Oyelowo is also keen to tell stories featuring black protagonists.  The chance to appear in a period drama was one of his “primary motivations” for taking on “A United Kingdom”.

“That’s one of our big imports, is a good period drama,” says Oyelowo, who was born and raised in Oxford, England by Nigerian parents.

“But growing up in the 70s, 80s and 90s in the UK, when a lot of those films were having their heyday, we would watch avidly and never be represented. To be perfectly honest, when I was younger, it was just a given – Okay I’m not there represented, but I love these movies. I was force-fed them because they were on the TV all the time,” he says.

ET Canada caught up with Oyelowo and Assante at TIFF to talk the universal themes within their period drama, “A United Kingdom”.

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