Monday, March 19, 2001
David Oyelowo is an English-born Nigerian actor who is currently touring with the Royal Shakespeare Company and was cast as the king in Henry VI. His casting caused quite a stir in England because he was the first black actor to ever be cast as a British king. His casting as Henry was even opposed by an Oxford professor who argued that only white actors should play British kings. Oyelowo has had to overcome not only opposition to his casting as Henry from whites who can't quite see a dark British monarch, but also from fellow blacks in England who called him a "coconut", derogatorily suggesting that he was black on the outside and white on the inside, simply because he "came prepared to do my work." Oyelowo has received quite good reviews, however, and says that he identifies with Henry VI particularly because Henry's faith is his biggest strength, and some would say, his biggest weakness. Oyelowo knows all about this as he is a self-desribed "born-again Christian" who nonetheless continues to pursue the theater despite the theatrical community which he describes as "godless...and hedonistic."