David Oyelowo’s passion for ‘A United Kingdom’ got the film made

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David Oyelowo and his wife, Jessica, at the premiere of “A United Kingdom.” | Charles Sykes/Invision/AP Photo

Actor David Oyelowo saw a touch of irony that he was in Chicago last week to promote “A United Kingdom,” his new film now in theaters. As Oyelowo noted, “like so many other places in the world, [Chicago] is deeply divided by race and is not what we could call a ‘post-racial’ society, as Botswana considers itself today,” said the actor.

In the film, set in the late 1940s and early 1950s, Oyelowo portrays Seretse Khama, about to become the king of what was then the British protectorate of Bechuanaland in Southern Africa — today the modern country of Botswana. Khama’s romance — and then marriage — to Ruth Williams (played by Rosamund Pike), a white English office worker, leads to a long battle with both the British colonial authorities and his own native African tribe to recognize the legitimacy of the couple’s love and right to marry.

While Oyelowo himself is in an interracial marriage, the actor, who was Golden Globe-nominated for his performance as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the 2015 film “Selma,” noted he and his wife “have never experienced anything like what Ruth and Seretse Khama went through. However, we have been to places, and in situations, in parts of the world where it was very discernible that there was a lower level of enthusiasm for the fact that we were married,” Oyelowo said with a sly chuckle. “We come away from those moments with a thankfulness that we didn’t live at a different time in history, or in a world where we would have been subjected to that kind of prejudice and abuse.”

Oyelowo fought hard to make “A United Kingdom” — a project that literally took a decade to be produced. “Yes, it was a passion project both for me and for the many people behind it who could not believe this story was a subject about which many of us were not even aware — including those of us who are of African descent,” said Oyelowo, who, though British, is descended from Nigerian nobility.

The actor said his Chicago visit brought back “some very, very happy memories of a very recent time spent in your fair city. Last year I was here shooting a film which is still called ‘The Untitled Nash Edgerton Project,’ ” a movie directed and produced by Nash Edgerton, the brother of actor Joel Edgerton.

“While I can’t say too much about the film — they are keeping a lot of it under wraps — I can say it also stars Joel Edgerton, Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried and Thandie Newton. Basically, it’s based on my character and my bosses who are played by Charlize and Joel — and he is a guy who is consistently making bad decisions, and is chased by a lot of very questionable individuals,” said Oyelowo with a laugh, noting the film from Amazon and STX is slated for release later this year.

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