David Oyelowo thinks being British helped his portrayal of Martin Luther King Jr.

The 38-year-old actor plays the civil rights activist in 'Selma' and thinks having more of a distance from the freedom fighter than a US star may have done helped him ''tap into the human being'' more quickly.

He said: ''Even though I admire Dr King, I didn't grow up with the deification of him. I was able to tap into the human being quicker.''

Seven years before landing the role, David played Oprah Winfrey - who produced and helped finance the film - a video of himself reciting a speech made by Dr. King the day before he was assassinated in 1968 but she advised he needed to push himself further before he'd be right for the role.

David told the Daily Mail newspaper: ''I showed Oprah this tape and she said, 'I can see it -- but you haven't got there yet. You're going to have to go deeper. But I can see it.'

''[Looking back], I wouldn't have cast me as Martin Luther King back then. King was at the centre of one of the most volatile times in American history, and he was burdened by expectation. Oprah couldn't see that burden in my face... then. I've lived a lot of life since.''