'Selma' star David Oyelowo on the Martin Luther King Jr. biopic: 'This struggle continues and we all have to participate'

Oyelowo plays Martin Luther King Jr. in the film, which is based on the 1965 marches from the Alabama cities of Selma to Montgomery. 'People are wearing different kind of clothes, it's a different era but the same issues still prevail,' 'Selma' star Oprah Winfrey said.

Atsushi Nishijima/Paramount Pictures/AP
'Selma' stars David Oyelowo (center) and Carmen Ejogo (r.).

At the recent premiere of "Selma" in New York, the cast acknowledged parallels between their film about the African-American civil rights movement and recent protests nationwide, calling attention to the deaths of unarmed black males at the hands of police.

"You can look out your window and you can see people protesting and you can look at the film and it looks similar," said Oprah Winfrey, who is a producer on the film and has an acting role as well. "People are wearing different kind of clothes, it's a different era but the same issues still prevail."

"Selma," co-written and directed by Ava DuVernay, is based on the 1965 marches from the Alabama cities of Selma to Montgomery, led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. At the time, they were calling for voting rights.

David Oyelowo, who plays King in the film, added, "We couldn't have predicted what would happen in terms of what's going on, race relations-wise. We finished shooting in early July and by early August Michael Brown had been murdered and now we're in the middle of the Eric Garner situation. I just think it shows. ... We do not live in a post-racial America."

He added he hopes "Selma" shows "that this struggle continues and we all have to participate."

And participate is what some of the actors in the film have done. Actress Lorraine Toussaint said she took her 10-year-old daughter to march in a protest in New York the day before.

"I wanted to make sure that she knows that she can make a difference, that it is important to stand up and speak out when there is wrong, when there is injustice," said Toussaint. "Evil only propagates when we are silent and so, you know, it's a difficult time, but our voices matter and I wanted my daughter to know that her voice matters."

Others took their activism to the red carpet.

Actor Wendell Pierce wore a shirt that said "I Can't Breathe" for Garner, who died in July at 43 years old after being put in a chokehold by a New York City police officer during an arrest for allegedly selling loose, untaxed cigarettes.

"This is not a movie about the past," he said. "It's a movie about a very, very acute present because it's all the same issues that have been going on for a long time."

Co-star Ruben Santiago-Hudson raised his hands for photographs in reference to the killing of Brown, an 18-year-old who reportedly had his hands up when he was shot dead by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.

Tyler Perry, who is not in the movie but was there to support Winfrey, said the continued turnout for the protests has given him hope.

"Emotionally for me, it just let me know that everything is gonna be OK," he said. "Everything is gonna be OK. It's like being in a battle with a lion or tiger and then you see all this help coming your way, you know, and I think that it is beyond moving and powerful and phenomenal."

"Selma" opens in limited release Dec. 25 and goes wide Jan. 9.

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