David Oyelowo has spoken about the growing opportunities for young black actors in the film industry, in the wake of the box office success of Black Panther this year.

“I’m really, really proud, because they are now doing that which my generation wasn’t afforded,” the award-winning star told The Guardian in a wide-ranging new interview on Friday (March 9th) ahead of his new film Gringo.

“Y’know, the Leonardo DiCaprios and the Ryan Goslings, they get to break earlier than black actors do. You sort of need to pummel and plough away for longer, as a black actor, to get a degree of fame and, more often than not, you have to play a historical figure somewhere; basically a role that a white actor couldn’t play.”

David OyelowoDavid Oyelowo has spoken about the opportunites for black actors in the film industry

“But John [Boyega] is in his early twenties with Star Wars, Daniel is in his twenties with Get Out, and now Black Panther. Getting these opportunities younger means they have a greater length of time to build a body of significant work. If you look at myself, Idris [Elba], Chiwetel [Ejiofor], it’s happened for us a bit later.”

More: David Oyelowo to play James Bond… in audiobook [archive]

Oyelowo, 41, admits that he now chooses his roles carefully at this stage of his career, aware that he needs to set an example for aspiring black actors, just as he took inspiration from older actors when he was growing up.

“There is a degree of activism in terms of the roles I take,” he explained. “They suggested to me what was possible, they gave me a sense of who I could or should be in the world, for better or worse.”

On top of this, Oyelowo has also become more outspoken in supporting women in film.

“I find it particularly egregious that talented people anywhere are being marginalised… the idea that women, and women of colour in particular, are getting few opportunities, that just doesn’t make sense to me because they have such a rich contribution to make. It’s just… I’m indignant about it. I find it incredibly annoying.”

More: David Oyelowo traversed his British and Nigerian heritage for role in ‘A United Kingdom’ [archive]