David Oyelowo plays a naive Nigerian immigrant in Gringo, a far cry from his previous roles — Selma, Queen Of Katwe, A United Kingdom — but Oyelowo is still living in his purpose.
A dozen Black female journalists gathered at NYC’s North End Grill for an intimate luncheon with David Oyelowo. The Academy Award nominee, who provides the voice for “The It” in Ava Duvernay’s Wrinkle In Time, was an open book as we dined over fine food and wine. It’s no coincidence Oyelowo both appeared in Selma and lent his voice to Wrinkle. Duvernay and Oyelowo hold each other accountable for pushing the culture forward and challenge each other to reach back and bring along aspiring creatives. All of which is why Oyelowo delved into the confines of his mind to construct a character whose story had yet to be told on the big screen.
Harold Soyinka could easily be your family member and his plight familiar. Gringo may seem like your typical Mexican drug cartel flick, but if you hold a lens to Harold, he represents a man caught at the intersection of complacency fueled by his want to be socially accepted and his need for something more. He’s nuanced in the way all humans are and deals with being too nice at times. His passive nature renders him naive or completely oblivious to the truths going on around him. Oyelowo poured lots of thought into Harold on purpose.
Harold’s character wasn’t originally Nigerian, Oyelowo revealed during our candid chat. He decided to give Harold him an accent after reading the script and discussing it with Gringo’s writers and the director. Oyelowo customized this character as he does with all his roles. He hand picks all his roles to ensure he doesn’t fall victim to the Hollywood machine. He revealed that he could never play a character who acts of out malice and never reaches a resolve. And if ever there comes a time he trades his dignity for a check or forgets to reach back on his journey of success, Ava Duvernay will be on deck to check him (and vice versa).
Catch Gringo in theaters now.