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Photographs by Mr Benjamin A Huseby | Styling by Mr Dan May
Words by Mr Benjamin Seidler

Looking and sounding rather too debonair to be chowing his lunch down in a small trailer on location in London's Victoria at 10am, a sharply tailored Mr Oyelowo stands out in life as he does on the screen. There's a quiet force behind the LA-based actor's dark, fixed gaze and crisp, thespian accent: character traits he's put to good use in his latest role as the corporate tycoon Mr Steven Jacobs in director Mr Rupert Wyatt's Rise of the Planet of the Apes, in which he stars alongside Mr James Franco.

Raised by a royal Nigerian family in south London, Mr Oyelowo's varied upbringing has undoubtedly played a part in preparing him for the diverse roles he has enjoyed over the past few years, from kings and soldiers to doctors and romantic leads. Noted, at the age of 24, for being the first black actor to play a monarch for the Royal Shakespeare Company as Henry VI, he has since worked alongside Mr James McAvoy as a sympathetic doctor in the Oscar-winning The Last King of Scotland, played a slick London MI5 agent in the BBC series Spooks, and has recently finished filming for George Lucas' film Red Tails in which he plays a WWII American fighter pilot.

Tell us about Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
It's been one of 20th Century Fox's most successful and beloved franchises, one that I liked watching when I was younger. The 1968 film with Charlton Heston was a classic. But what I loved with this new script was that it was a different take on the mythology of Planet of the Apes. The other films are set in the future, this one is set now and because science has developed so much in terms of genetic engineering, the possibility of a drug that can increase apes' intelligence is not beyond the realms of plausibility. I loved that the well-known brand of these films was being revitalised like this.
As an actor, does the style of the characters you play ever influence your own?
Yes all the time. I get to inhabit the skins of different people as well as their clothes. In Rise of the Planet of the Apes, my character was the type of man who knows the power of a good suit. He only wore ones from Savile Row. When you wear great clothes, it's hard to go back to clothes that aren't well cut. I love Dunhill for its British gentry quality and the lightness of its suits - you don't feel constrained in a Dunhill or Paul Smith suit, as it moves with your body. I also have a thing for Dolce & Gabbana, a brand I discovered filming Spooks - my character liked to overuse his credit card, and it meant I got to wear some fantastic leather jackets. For me, it's the cut, the fit, the fabric and the quality of the leather and the lining. Never forget to look at the lining.
How would you describe your personal style?
It's eclectic. I find my mood very much dictates what I want to wear. There will be days when I feel that I want to look good for my wife, so I won't just throw on a T-shirt. I'll put on a pair of cords, brogues and a button-down shirt. I live in California and casual is key out there, so I often wear smart jeans to get a balance of elegance in my look.
How do you balance an international career with being a husband and father?
Priorities are the key. When my wife and I got married, we promised we would never be apart for more than two weeks. It's been a challenge, but the key is to have non-negotiables regarding how long you are away from home, what parts you take - my priorities are always in check. My kids come everywhere with us - and that means we have to home-school them, which is a big commitment. It would be easier to think about work first and the family second, but that way badness lies.
How do you feel your nationality informs your work?
It's incredible to think that I lived in Nigeria for seven years, most of my life in the UK and for four years in the US. It's given possibilities as I've played Africans, Brits, West Indians and Americans in equal measure. I am able to play those roles from a place of knowledge as I have steeped myself in those cultures. It's liberating. A lot of white actors will never get to play both an African and an American.
What do you do to relax?
I love playing tennis. My kids are into tae kwon do, so they beat me up a lot of the time. The ten months of sunshine will keep me living in LA, that's something I always missed living in London - it's a part of my Nigerian heritage that never left me!

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is out on 5 August in the US, 11 August in Hong Kong and 12 August in the UK

Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes


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