Selma star David Oyelowo: I had to leave Britain to have an acting career

The Brit star says there are not enough jobs for black actors in this country and reveals he was told "if it's not Jane Austen or Dickens the audience don't understand"

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David Oyelowo is riding high at the moment as the star of Oscar-nominated historical drama Selma, in which he plays Martin Luther King.

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And he says a lack of roles for black actors in Britain meant he had little choice but to make the move stateside in order to further his career.

Speaking in this week’s Radio Times, Oyelowo says “We make period dramas [in Britain], but there are almost never black people in them, even though we’ve been on these shores for hundreds of years,

“I remember taking a historical drama with a black figure at its centre to a British executive with greenlight power, and what they said was that if it’s not Jane Austen or Dickens, the audience don’t understand.

“And I thought ‘OK – you are stopping people having a context for the country they live in and you are marginalising me. I can’t live with that. So I’ve got to get out.

“There’s a string of black British actors passing through where I live now in LA. We don’t have Downton Abbey, or Call the Midwife, or Peaky Blinders, or the 50th iteration of pride and Prejudice. We’re not in those. And it’s frustrating because it doesn’t have to be that way. I shouldn’t have to feel like I have to move to America to have a notable career.”

Read Radio Times’ review of Selma here

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Read the full interview in this week’s Radio Times, on sale from the 3rd February