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"Captive" David Oyelowo: God's Grace Can End Injustice & Hate
"Captive" David Oyelowo: God's Grace Can End Injustice & Hate

"Captive" David Oyelowo: God's Grace Can End Injustice & Hate

By Jacob Sahms

Brian Nichols is serving multiple life sentences in Georgia, after the events of March 11, 2005. On trial for rape, Nichols killed several court officials while escaping to see his newborn son, and took a single mother and recovering addict, Ashley Smith, hostage for seven hours. Smith, who had just received a copy of Pastor Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life from a friend, read portions of the book to Nichols, and the hostage situation came to a peaceful resolution. In advance of the new film about Nichols and Smith, Paramount’s Captive, David Oyelowo sat down with to discuss his portrayal of Nichols.

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Oyelowo, who dominated national headlines with his portrayal of The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., told me that he gravitates toward roles in movies that he would want to see. “As a man, a husband, a father, and a Christian, I want to make movies that are evocative of my taste, that inspire me,” he said. “In Captive, there’s the undeniable presence of God’s grace. There’s no way in my mind, on paper, that Nichols and Smith can be in a hostage situation over seven hours that lead to a redemptive, life-changing experience for either of them.”

Neither Nichols or Smith were looking for God to show up in the midst of their seven-hour encounter, but Oyelowo said that God is what made Nichols let Smith go and give himself up. For Smith, it was something even more profound. “Ashley Smith was on set with us for much of the filming,” Oyelowo said. “She was a huge source of information, and of course, there was plenty of court footage during the trial.”

“My favorite moment in the film is when Brian Nichols asks Ashley if she could forgive him if he was the man who killed her husband. She says that she doesn’t know if she could but she thinks that God could.”

“Ashley says that Brian Nichols breaking in was God’s way of saying that she was out of chances. She stepped into her salvation through that moment,” Oyelowo shared.

But what about the way that Nichols says that church people are judgmental and unforgiving, that belief is just foolish? “I think that church can sometimes be judgmental because we expect something different than what God expects,” Oyelowo said. “God takes us as we are, but we can be skeptical about someone or what they’ve done.”

Captive tells a story about how the miraculous breaks in, against our expectations, Oyelowo surmised. “We really have to question our prejudices. Whether it’s in Selma or in the story of Brian Nichols, we have to treat people differently,” he said. “What changed this situation was Ashley Smith’s willingness to read to him, to serve him pancakes, to treat him like a human being. She defused a human bomb! To a lot of people, Nichols should be treated like a monster, but she treated him like he was human.”

I asked Oyelowo in closing what film he would make, what role he would take, if he was able to tell any story he could. The English actor laughed, and said, “I might argue that I’ve done that already in the role of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. But what I strive to do is to continue to do work that challenges me. I will admit to gravitating toward biopics, but I’m happy to do action films, comedy. I’m interested in telling stories where love can overcome hate and injustice.”

In Captive, Oyelowo has found another role just like that, even if he’s playing the villain this time. Just don’t expect it to be seen in black and white.

To hear what the real-life Ashley Smith shared with, click here.

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