David Oyelowo Explains How ‘Gringo’ Adds to America’s Immigration Conversation

'Gringo' film premiere
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Although”Gringo” was filmed two years ago, star David Oyelowo shared why the newly released dark comedy should resonate among many viewers with today’s immigration headlines.

The Nash Edgerton-directed film follows Harold Soyinka, (Oyelowo) a conscientious but naive Nigerian immigrant and manager at a pharmaceutical company, whose domineering superiors, Richard and Elaine (Joel Edgerton and Charlize Theron), send Harold on a dangerous trip to Mexico to uphold a pending merger.

“And the word ‘gringo’ actually just means foreigner, and you couldn’t get someone who is more of that than Harold,” Oyelowo said at the film’s world premiere in Downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday. “He’s a foreigner in America. He’s a foreigner in Mexico. He’s just trying to find his place; it really just opened the film up.”

Edgerton’s original script for the film involved Harold’s character portrayed by a white man, but after Oyelowo read the script, he had a different suggestion: make Harold into a hard-working Nigerian immigrant, adding an unpredicted angle to the film. “It changed how I looked at every scene and how I looked at the relationships in each scene,” Edgerton explains of the character shift. “I think the film, and the experience of watching the film, is better for it.”

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For Oyelowo, “Gringo” is a complete change of pace. “Harold is the kind of guy you’d normally see on the periphery of this sort of story,” he said. “But you’re also able to discuss things that you normally wouldn’t in this film.”

Though Edgerton wants audiences to get a good laugh out of the film, he emphasizes his desire for people to see the characters as representations of both the good and the bad in society. “There is a very good-natured, kind person in this movie surrounded by some people doing despicable things, and ultimately I think kindness can win out over greed.”

Without naming any names, he went on to say,  “there are some people doing bad things in the world and they don’t always get held accountable, but at some point they do and they at least have to go home and live with themselves.”

The stuntman-turned-director and his brother, Joel, shared light banter on the carpet as well. “I didn’t cast Joel because he’s my brother,” Nash quipped. “I cast him because he’s a talented actor, and because my mom said he needed a job.”

Also walking the carpet were stars Theron and Amanda Seyfried as well as special guests Lupita Nyong’o and Emily Deschanel.

“Gringo” hits theaters on March 9.