“If it scares me, then it has my attention,” he says. “That’s the way I stay challenged, and if I consistently put myself in that type of scenario, that’s what teaches me more about humanity. It’s about getting to jostle with several obstacles, and that’s what is in any good piece of writing.”
It was exactly this feeling that led Oyelowo to his role as Javert in “Les Misérables.” The six-part miniseries premieres at 8 p.m. Sunday, April 14, on New Mexico PBS.
The 1862 Victor Hugo novel is adapted by award-winning screenwriter Andrew Davies.
The series stars Dominic West stars as fugitive Jean Valjean, with Oyelowo as his pursuer, Inspector Javert, and Lily Collins as the luckless single mother Fantine.
Ellie Bamber and Josh O’Connor co-star as the young lovers Cosette and Marius.
The action begins in 1815 as Jean Valjean, a man sentenced to 19 years of hard labor for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his family, finds only hatred and suspicion when he is released on parole.
As Valjean crosses the landscape of early 19th century France, he is pursued by the righteous Javert.
From his adoption and love of the orphan Cosette, to the darkly funny plots of the thieving Thénardiers, from the soaring revolutionary fire of the student rebels who fight on the barricade in the streets of Paris to the final confrontation between Jean Valjean and Javert.
Fantine is an impoverished factory worker who loses her job and turns to prostitution to continue paying the Thénardiers to care for her illegitimate daughter, Cosette.
Working with a stellar cast also had its benefits.
“We all came to the project for the same reason and with the same attitude,” Oyelowo says. “Andrew really wrote an epic story, and it resonates with the time we’re in. Revolution is in the air all over the world. ‘Les Misérables’ is about the social injustices.”
Oyelowo is also a producer on the series and says it was an opportunity to expand on the story.
“Victor Hugo’s classic is 1,500 pages long,” he says. “It’s a lot of material, and we’ve get six hours of opportunity to expand on each of the characters. With Javert, we get into the context of why he’s so obsessed with Jean Valjean. He was born to criminal parents, and pursuing criminals is his justification. He is constantly clawing his way back up.”
Oyelowo wanted the opportunity to dive in deeper to Javert’s character.
“To keep an audience engaged is to keep something fresh,” he says. “We all know the characters from the musical and the recent film. But there are so many layers to Hugo’s story. It was an opportunity to tell that story.”
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