David Oyelowo (‘Les Miserables’) on bringing nuance and context to iconic villain Javert [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

This was an “opportunity to bring real context to Javert,” reveals David Oyelowo about his role on “Les Miserables.” “For me, a character like Javert, who in the musical you could argue can come off as one dimensional and very easily dismissible as the villain of the piece, I just found in reading Victor Hugo’s book and Andrew Davies’ scripts that there’s so much more going on.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Oyelowo above.

The BBC/PBS Masterpiece co-production has been a critical hit stateside, as a fresh re-telling of the iconic Hugo novel, this time without the musical numbers made famous by many previous iterations, including the Broadway smash and the recent Oscar winning film adaptation. The limited series also stars Dominic West as Valjean and Lily Collins as Fantine. Oyelowo plays the iconic villain Javert, and relished the chance to give him more nuance to explain why he so relentlessly pursues his nemesis Valjean until he ultimately throws himself into the Seine.

SEE Emmys 2019 exclusive: PBS ‘Masterpiece’ categories for ‘Les Miserables,’ ‘Mrs. Wilson’ and more

“It was an opportunity to spend more time with what Victor Hugo had written,” Oyelowo declares. “It’s a 1,500 page tome, and the musical beautifully distills that to what about to about two and a bit hours. But in having three times that amount of time in terms of a six hour limited series, we had the opportunity to really dive into these really fascinating characters.”

“In other iterations of this story that have less time to spend with the characters and the narrative, that moment of Javert destroying himself can kind of come out of nowhere,” Oyelowo explains. “Why does he pursue this man obsessively, why does he kill himself? It never really lands emotionally. It sort of just gets dismissed as he’s that weird guy who just did something weird to himself. Whereas, the challenge for us and the challenge for me was can we earn that ending. Can we bring enough context that when we get to that moment, the audience may even be able t have a degree of empathy and may even be able to attribute a degree of humanity to Javert.”

“Javert suffers from an acute case of self-loathing. He is born to criminal parents, he grew up in prison, he hates that part of his own upbringing, and the minute he makes the choice that he is not going to be like his parents, he has basically set himself in opposition t the part of himself that he hates, and he transposes that onto Jean Valjean,” Oyelowo says. “He’s trying to kill the self in him that he loathes. And when he realizes that he has made a mistake in that, when he realizes that this is a man who is worthy of redemption. He realizes that his pursuit has been futile and so therefore the foundation on which he has built his life has been wrong, and so if he’s not going to destroy this other human being, the only option he has, as he sees it, is to turn that judgment that he harbors, on himself.”

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