The film A United Kingdom tells the true story of an interracial couple—Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo) and Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike)—who were drawn together by love but whose relationship was fraught with great trial. The adversities that this couple faced in the late ’40s are no surprise—namely, laws and systems to drive the pair apart because of an oppressive force: racism.
Khama became the heir of Bechuanaland (present-day Botswana) while its neighbor South Africa was on the cusp of implementing apartheid. After marrying Williams in London, Khama returned to Africa to fulfill his responsibilities as king. The plot thicken: African tribesmen were displeased with the marriage, too. So Khama’s union and his desire to take the throne caused an international firestorm.
We know what you’re thinking: Another movie about an interracial couple?
Yes, this plot sounds strikingly similar to that of the Oscar-nominated film Loving, which brings to the screen the true story of an interracial couple (Richard and Mildred Loving) who fought to end miscegenation laws in America and won. In A United Kingdom, the stakes are just as high. This international story deserves to be told.
“As a very proud person of African descent, this is the kind of story that I want to see coming out of Africa, and don’t,” Oyelowo told The Root. Oyelowo was unaware of the story, which was told in Susan Williams’ 2006 book Colour Bar, until six years ago. The actor then became “obsessed” with seeing it come to the big screen.
Oyelowo, who himself is in an interracial marriage, says that he and his wife of nearly 20 years, Jessica Oyelowo, have faced nothing like the racism and bigotry endured by Khama and Williams.
“At the end of the day, all I have to do is look at my wife, look at my four beautiful children, and any notions of the ugliness that exists in the world as an attitude towards interracial marriages disappears,” Oyelowo said.
Directed by Amma Asante, A United Kingdom hits theaters Friday. But before heading to the theaters, check out our exclusive interview with Oyelowo and Pike.