12 Years a Slave star Chiwetel Ejiofor spoke with Indiewire and explained why he was worried about taking the role and whether he would be able to pull it off.
Following rave reviews at Telluride and Toronto, the actor is essentially a lock for an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of real-life victim Solomon Northup. Contrary to Josh’s Power Rankings posted on September 10th, the actor will be nominated instead of snubbed. In all likelihood, he serve as the front runner between now and Oscar Sunday.
When director Steve McQueen initially offered the role to Ejiofor, the actor passed on it. The actor explained why:
First, there’s this story which has with it a huge responsibility — not only to tell the tale of Solomon Northup for him and his descendants, but also the story of the slave trade in America and specifically at this time what that means. So there was the pause of that, the pause of, “Wow, this is right there,” and the nature of the story as well. You know that it’s going be a set kind of experience. Then there was the other pause, which is slightly more complex in a way, which is the pause as a performer: You wait your whole life for opportunities to play these great parts and you’re hassling your agent, trying to read all these scripts, figuring all this stuff out. You’re doing that in order to get to the point where somebody sends you a great script and a great part and then it comes through the door and you think, “Can I do this? Am I capable of it?”
Reflecting back on things, the actor is “very glad” that he took on the role.
This year, there have been a few films depicting race relations but slavery as a whole really has not been reflected on the big screen.
“We take it for granted sometimes that certain parts of our history are told and we take it for granted that we know all that stuff and we move forward along on that basis, but there are also massive gaps and we have to try to address them,” the actor told Indiewire.