David Oyelowo

David Oyelowo Biography

Actor, Screenwriter (1976–)
David Oyelowo is a classically trained stage actor also known for screen projects like 'Spooks,' 'As You Like It,' 'Red Tails,' 'Lincoln' and 'The Butler.'


Born in Oxford, England, on April 1, 1976, David Oyelowo honed his passion for acting into award-winning stage work, as seen with dramas like Henry VI and Prometheus Bound. His TV projects have included Spooks, As You Like It, Small Island and The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, and he has starred in big-screen ventures like The Paperboy, Middle of Nowhere, LincolnThe Butler and Interstellar.

Background and Education

David Oyelowo was born in Oxford, England, on April 1, 1976, to Nigerian parents, living in the United Kingdom until he was 6 years old and then relocating to Nigeria—where he discovered his family was of royal lineage—for seven years. Oyewolo returned to the country of his birth and lived in London, though he was bullied at school by other youth for his courteous manner.

Oyelowo developed a passion for acting, eventually attending the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, graduating in 1998. During his time as a teen with the National Youth Music Theatre, he met his future wife, Jessica Watson.

Shakespeare and Film Debuts

After completing his studies, Oyelowo took to more stage work, being featured in The Suppliants. In 2001, his award-winning lead role in Henry VI was the first time a king was portrayed by a black actor in a Royal Shakespeare Company production. He later acted in The God Botherers and Prometheus Bound.

Oyelowo turned to television as well, starring for a time in the British spy series Spooks, billed as MI-5 during its American run on A&E. He then launched his international film career with parts in the sci-fi adventure A Sound of Thunder (2005) and the Idi Amin biopic The Last King of Scotland (2006), which starred Forest Whitaker, Kerry Washington and James McAvoy. Oyelowo also co-wrote the BBC movie Graham and Alice (2006) and continued to shine with Shakespeare, portraying Orlando de Boys in Kenneth Branagh's HBO production of As You Like It (2007).

Rich Array of Screen Work

Oyelowo has undertaken a rich assortment of big and small screen projects over the years, showing his versatility and commitment as a thespian. He played a passionate academic in the 2008 U.S. TV production of A Raisin in the Sun and had a lead role with Noamie Harris in the 2009 British TV adaptation of the novel Small Island. He shined in his role as a demanding, rigid executive in Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011), and later portrayed a Tuskegee pilot in Red Tails (2012).

Other projects on the actor's plate have included The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (2009), The Help (2011), Jack Reacher (2012) and the award-winning Lincoln (2012).

Dr. King and Award Nominations

In 2013, Oyelowo was prominently featured in The Butler, depicting the activist son of Cecil and Gloria Gaines, portrayed by Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey. Oyelowo was reunited with director Lee Daniels for the film, with the two having worked together on 2012's Paperboy.

Oyewolo had also co-starred in the 2012 independent drama Middle of Nowhere, directed by Ava DuVernay. He and DuVernay worked together again for her next film, the riveting drama Selma (2014), in which Oyelowo portrays Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The actor earned a Golden Globe nomination for the role.

In 2015, Oyewolo received a second Golden Globe nomination as well as Emmy consideration for his portrayal of a psychologically troubled war veteran in the HBO film Nightingale.

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