‘Role Play’: David Oyelowo talks stepping out of his traditional role

Role Play
Kaley Cuoco as stars as Emma and David Oyelowo as Dave in ‘Role Play.’
Courtesy of Prime Video

In ‘Role Play‘, Prime Video’s latest action-comedy, David Oyelowo (Dave) and Kaley Cuoco (Emma) play a married couple with a few normal issues, and one very odd one. Emma as it turns out, happens to moonlight as an international assassin, and after a date night out with Dave, her secret is spilled and a ‘Mission Impossible’ styled adventure with some comedic engines ensues—though at its core, it’s a story about love and family. Or so, that’s what Oyelowo says, and to chat more about his experience making the film, the actor sat down to dive into ‘Role Play.’

What interested you in this role in the first place? 

Well, it’s a different speed for me… My work has traditionally tended to be a bit more serious, so to speak, but I definitely have a goofy side. I’m very happily married with kids, so I just really loved the family element and the fun element—the fun being the concept and the conceit of a marriage that is facing some challenges, and of course, those challenges are movie-sized in terms of finding out my wife is an assassin. 

But for me, it’s almost allegorical for any problem you have in a marriage and you’re trying to figure it out. Ultimately what these two are trying to do is save their family and their love for each other. So even though it takes on a sort of fun and fantastical turn, at the end of the day, the things that they’re fighting for feel very relatable. 

Role Play
Courtesy of Prime Video

Thomas Vincent (the director) said that for some moments in ‘Role Play,’ he had the cast shoot two scenes: One that was more focused on comedy and one that was more focused on the action aspect of the film. What was that like?  

Thomas was very mindful of the fact that getting the tone right was something that we needed to be mindful of while we were shooting, and we definitely needed to give him the tools to get the tone right in the edit. So from take to take, we would vary it from [being] a bit more grounded and a bit more serious and real to then a bit more big [or] a bit more overtly comedic. 

We knew that we were skirting with the real and the absurd, so to speak. That’s kind of where the fun is in life—we have these moments that are absurd but also real, and that’s what the film was trying to do. But in all honesty, and I think this is where Thomas was very clever, a film starts to speak to you in the edit as to what it wants to be, but it can’t speak to you unless you give it lots of tools and lots of language to find that turn. So it was fun getting to do the same scenes but in different ways each time. 

Role Play
Pictured are Kaley Cuoco as Emma and Bill Nighy as Bob in ‘Role Play.’Courtesy of Prime Video

Does any scene stand out to you with that in mind? 

I think the scene where Kaley shoots me is definitely one of those. I mean, it is completely absurd, but you also have to play the reality of what it would be like not only to be shot, but to be shot by your own wife. So that was one that was fun to play, but you also still have to do your job as an actor and paint within the lines of believability in terms of what it’s like to undergo something like that. 

Since a lot of the film is focused on your relationship with Kaley’s character, what was it like working with her and how did you build that chemistry to come across on screen?

Well, the wonderful thing for me is that she’s a truly amazing human being. Funny, kind, humble, honest. And so it was very easy, very quickly to find that chemistry and to find that rhythm with her and to find the family dynamic. She’s a very lovable person as well, so it wasn’t hard to play the love aspect in relation to this onscreen couple. I give her a lot of credit for just being a phenomenal scene partner and a great person and someone with whom this was incredibly easy. 

Going back to the filming aspects of it, I would have to imagine that for some of those comedic takes or moments in the film, was there room for some improv for you? 

There was, especially after having been shot [by Kaley], that was just such an extreme thing to play and to react to. So there were definitely improvised moments there. None of them are immediately coming to mind, but there was a very seamless interaction between the scripted lines and what was coming out naturally because we found a rhythm very quickly in terms of just hopefully, a believability between ourselves. And thankfully, Thomas was open to what we may come up with outside the lines as well. 

And how was shooting overall in Berlin?

It was weird, to be perfectly honest, because some of what we’re shooting is set in New Jersey and you’re with a German crew, you’re in a very German place and environment that is decidedly not the States. Obviously, some of it was set in Berlin and that kind of felt more natural, so to speak. 

But yeah, it’s the weird thing about what we do. It’s all make-believe anyway, but then it’s like make-believe on top of make-believe when you are in the wrong place to shoot the right thing and you have to be playing it the right way. But that’s the fun of what we do and that just added a nice little challenge and an extra wrinkle. 

What do you hope people walk away thinking or feeling after watching ‘Role Play’? 

[I hope it’s] a fun ride for folks to watch, but also, I think the secret little message in there is that family is worth fighting for, and the love between a husband and wife is worth fighting for. Even though we do that in fantastical ways in this film, I hope that people who are engaged in long-term relationships take away the fact of: What would I be prepared to do to save my marriage, to save my family, and to save those nearest and dearest to me? 

‘Role Play’ will premiere on Jan. 12, exclusively on Prime Video