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Actual Nigerian prince David Oyelowo talks fictional African kings and President Shithole on The Late Show

David Oyelowo, Stephen Colbert
David Oyelowo, Stephen Colbert
Screenshot: The Late Show With Stephen Colbert

While David Oyelowo traditionally downplays the fact, the Selma star is a no-joke, recent descendant of African royalty. Talking with Stephen Colbert on Monday’s Late Show about his new movie, Gringo, the English-Nigerian actor nonetheless kept it princely, even when Colbert asked him about Donald Trump’s continent-wide slander of African countries as “shitholes.” “I’m a very, very proud Nigerian,” answered Oyelowo, with a courtly diplomacy that Donald Trump couldn’t fake with a TelePrompter and a special effects team, “And that statement can only come from someone who’s never been there.” Sure, Oyelowo did bring up the fact that he’s not likely to take seriously someone who thinks the African nation of “Nambia” exists, but, even there, the actor brought the slam home with a regal wit.

He also had a thoughtful answer to Colbert’s joke about Trump (who we’ll call President Shithole for the remainder of this article, for clarity’s sake) potentially also having harsh words for the African nation of Wakanda. Asked by Colbert if, as an African (Oyelowo grew up in both England and Nigeria), he ever gets ticked off that all of the current goodwill and pride stemming from Black Panther’s massive success is going to a fictional nation—instead of, you know, the actual country Oyelowo’s family once helped lead—Oyelowo was effusive in his praise for the film’s impact. Noting how many “lies” about Africa and its people have been perpetuated by Hollywood over the years, the actor drew a parallel between the fictional Wakanda and, say, the actual country of Congo, whose (admittedly vibranium-less) bountiful national resources were looted through colonialist exploitation. “It’s a beautiful depiction of how I see that continent,” he said of the film. Further explaining that it was he who suggested his everyman character in the crime comedy Gringo (opening Friday) should be, like himself, a Nigerian immigrant, Oyelowo says he drew on his parents’ experience in developing a character whose hopeful belief in the opportunities afforded by his new country is taken advantage of by colonizer-types. And while Oyelowo laughingly brushed aside Colbert’s assertion that he—again, an actual African prince—might be the real Black Panther when not raking in all those acting awards, well, that’s just a mark of true nobility President Shithole simply hasn’t got in him, either.


Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.

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