As David Oyelowo walked out of the studio into the LA sunlight, he reflected on his strange audition.
After reciting random lines into a microphone, the British actor had no idea what he’d just auditioned for... only that the role was top-secret.
It wasn’t until weeks later, in an out-of-the-blue phone call, that David understood the reason for all the mystery... he was about to become part of Disney’s first venture into Star Wars, providing the voice of villain Agent Kallus in the new animated TV series Star Wars Rebels.
He says: “It was all very cloak and dagger. I went in and a few weeks later I got a call to say, ‘You’ve got the job and by the way it’s Star Wars and you’re playing Agent Kallus.’
“I remember walking down the street thinking, ‘Oh my goodness, what a way to find out you’re now in the Star Wars universe.’
“Nobody knew they were doing any animated Star Wars shows, including those being auditioned for it. I thought I was auditioning for something ordinary when it was something quite extraordinary.”
Two years after Disney acquired Lucasfilm, the force behind the world’s most famous space saga, Star Wars Rebels is set to be huge.
It takes place five years before the first 1977 film when the Jedi are in hiding.
Animation is new territory for David, who has gone from an estate in London’s Tooting Bec to rubbing shoulders
with acting greats like Tom Cruise, who he now counts as a close friend.
He is fast becoming one of the hottest properties in Hollywood thanks to his latest role playing Martin Luther King in Selma, which is already tipped for awards success.
And the down-to-earth star seems surprised his Star Wars job has attracted more attention than any film he’s ever starred in.
He says: “It’s my first foray into Disney and Star Wars so it’s a very new thing. The pressure is on. The level of anticipation and interest in me as an actor doing this voice role is something I’m not used to at all.
“I’ve never been involved with anything with this level of fandom.”
But David says the Star Wars craze passed him by as a child, admitting: “I preferred GI Joe and the like.”
The epic was introduced to his kids through the new Lego movie. And they are thrilled their dad is now part of the Star Wars legend.
He says: “When I told them about the role I couldn’t discern what they were saying because all I could hear was a high-pitched squeal from them all.
“My boys are 12, nine and six so they are the perfect age for Star Wars – they are very, very excited about it.”
David and his wife Jessica also have a daughter aged two. As the actor talks about how the couple have to “compartmentalise” Star Wars Lego pieces to stop them taking over their home, it’s clear he values family life above fame.
He has starred alongside the likes of Daniel Day Lewis in Lincoln, Matthew McConaughey and Nicole Kidman in The Paperboy and Forest Whitaker in The Butler – yet he still enjoys the privacy of less well-known actors.
David, 38, says he feels blessed that he can do what he loves doing professionally and still “be left alone to be a human being”.
His friend Tom Cruise doesn’t enjoy the same luxury. The pair met when David was playing investigator Emerson in Jack Reacher, based on the best-selling books by British author Lee Child.
And while David has managed to keep his personal life relatively under the radar, the same can’t be said for much-criticised Cruise.
But David says: “I don’t feel sorry for Tom because he doesn’t feel sorry for himself. He’s a very good friend and he’s become a great mentor, if you like.
“When I am struggling with something as an actor he proffers himself as a voice in my life, and a voice that I really treasure because he’s been doing it for so long and has experienced the ups and down of the industry. He’s very forthcoming with advice and generous with it.
“His dedication to film making is just unparalleled and his work ethic is second to none. I think, for any actor, what you constantly want to do is let the character do the talking and people are going to say what they want.”
David also speaks highly of Daniel Day Lewis, who he starred with two years ago in Lincoln. But he says: “I didn’t really get to meet him, I met Abraham Lincoln.
"Daniel was so entirely that character there were no real grounds to develop any friendship there. He’s so committed and so inspiring.”
Fans are looking forward to David’s version of another famous American, Martin Luther King, in his latest film, due out in December.
He says the role was a dream come true. “To play a character of that stature was a huge honour and a prospect I really relished, not least because with that film and that script we got to reveal something about this individual that the world thinks they know, but has been reduced to a catchphrase: I have a dream.
“But he was more than that and he achieved so much more than just being a great orator and the film definitely shows that.”
While David enjoys star status and loves living in LA, he still comes home to Britain. “I’m in the UK all the time,” he says.
“My parents are there and my brothers are there. I like to think of myself as an international actor, as opposed to being based in one place.”
- Star Wars Rebels starts on October 3 on Disney XD at 6pm. See a sneak preview below
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