Directed by Ava DuVernay, Selma (2014) is badly cast. I never believed for a moment that Tim Roth, of all people, was Alabama governor George Wallace. Tom Wilkinson, like Roth a fantastic actor in the right part, doesn’t fare better. I have nothing against Brits playing Americans (Dylan Baker was equally bad as J. Edgar Hoover). Still, the producers could have looked to community theaters anywhere in the American South and found actors better suited to those roles.
Thankfully, the leads are both strong (and British). David Oyelowo has Dr. King-like vocal power and has justifiably received accolades and nominations. However, the real find here is Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King, the first lady of the U.S. civil rights movement. Not terribly well-known to American audiences, she’s been acting in films since a part in Absolute Beginners (1986). More recently, she was Tyler Perry’s wife in Alex Cross (2012), Rebecca on the Zero Hour TV series and Eva in The Purge: Anarchy (2014). The role of Scott King is not her first time playing a historical figure. She was Thomas Jefferson mistress Sally Hemmings in the TV movie Sally Hemmings: An American Scandal (2000).
Tessa Thompson [Dear White People (2014)] is also onboard as activist Diane Nash.The FBI considered Nash a subversive, as they thought of Dr. King, himself.