“The thing that struck me the most is the audacity of the script. It’s an incredibly brave, singular, unique film,” says actor David Oyelowo of his HBO telefilm “Nightingale,” which premieres on May 29. “I love this, but is it achievable? Can you have one guy in a house, who starts out from the offset having committed this heinous crime, be someone who we as an audience are going to stick with for an hour and a half?” (Watch our complete video chat below.)
Oyelowo plays Peter Snowden, a disturbed military vet who sets about hiding his crime from family and friends, The entire film takes place in one house, and Oyelowo is the only actor who appears on-screen throughout, so “all of the normal indicators you have of whether a film is feeling good or not were not there. We really went in without a safety net.”
But “for me personally as an actor, that’s what you’re looking for. That’s what you want,” he adds. “You want to not only challenge yourself, but also the audience.”
The film was shot in chronological order, and Oyelowo stayed in character throughout the production, “which I’d never done before, but I felt it was necessitous for the nature of the character I was playing.” Once production wrapped, though, getting back out of character was also a challenge: “If you stay in character for three weeks, what you’re doing is you have an inner monologue going, and so to switch that off actually was tougher than I anticipated. But I was very happy once those voices quieted down.”
Oyelowo is coming off of the breakthrough success of his 2014 film “Selma,” in which he played Martin Luther King Jr. Reflecting on that film’s continuing cultural impact, he says, “The thing that has been most satisfying about it is that we made a historical film that just so happened to speak to the absolute time we are in, and that’s a very rare thing.” But while racial inequality persists, we live at a time when it’s harder to sweep such problems under the rug: “Everyone has a camera,” says Oyelowo. “Everyone has a voice.”
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