The actor, who won critical acclaim for playing Dr. Martin Luther King in “Selma,” is starring in the time travel thriller “Don’t Let Go.”
Oyelowo plays Detective Jack Radcliff, a man who begins to receive phone calls from his teen niece after she’s been killed.
It’s a different kind of role for Oyelowo, and he told CNN that was purposeful.
“I think as an actor one of the ways to keep people guessing and have a long carer is to keep bringing the changes,” he said. “I really loved the script and I also really identified with the script. I identified with this question of what would you be prepared to do to save someone you love.”
The father of four said he understands the power of the relationship between an uncle and child first hand having experienced it as both an uncle and a nephew.
But the family ties also made it daunting to star in the supernatural thriller, he said.
“It was very uncomfortable,” Oyelowo said. “You know, when I read the script, I was drawn to it and I also was a little scared of it because I knew that if I were to play this role I would have to really entertain what it would be like to lose people I love. And of course that turned my mind to my own children.”
But the role was so rich, the classically trained actor couldn’t pass it up.
So rich that he loves the suggestion that it feels Shakespearean.
“I’m a big fan of Shakespeare and I think what you’re alluding to there is that it’s a film with big emotion, very high stakes and really gives a platform for digging into some of our biggest fears and some of our greatest attributes: death, love, family, crime, honesty, justice. All of these themes are in there.”
As for what scares him, Oyelowo said, it’s the same thing that attracts him – fear of failure, especially since he is in the public eye.
“You know, if you fail it feels big because people are watching,” he said. “You can’t shy away from that fact, but that also keeps me working hard to do everything I can evade failure by doing the best work I can.”
Storm Reid, Mykelti Williamson, Alfred Molina and Brian Tyree Henry also star in the film.
“Don’t Let Go” is in theaters Friday.