David Oyelowo Explains How His New ‘Les Miserables’ Speaks to the ‘Prison Industrial Complex’ (Video)

Oyelowo plays the relentless Inspector Javert

Last Updated: April 14, 2019 @ 9:13 AM

David Oyelowo says his new take on “Les Miserables” for PBS’ “Masterpiece,” based on Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel, didn’t need to struggle for relevancy.

Oyelowo plays the relentless Inspector Javert, who refuses to believe that former convict Jean Valjean (Dominic West) can abandon his old ways. The two actors are also among the executive producers of the six-part series adapted by Andrew Davies.

“In the west, particularly, we are seeing the haves and the have-nots,” Oyelowo told TheWrap in an interview, which you can watch above. “There is a huge gap between both, an increasing gap between both.”

Oyelowo said Javert’s refusal to see some people as anything but criminals persists today.

“When you look at my character and his view of criminality, you only have to look at the prison industrial complex in this country, and you can easily transpose some of the police brutality you see playing out here in America and around the world onto that story,” he said.

Another modern parallel, he said, is the story of the tragic Fantine (Lily Collins), who Oyelowo said is “desperately trying to hold onto some kind of notion of a middle class.” One of Fantine’s obstacles is Madame Thenardier, played by Olivia Colman, a recent Oscar winner for Best Actress.

“Les Miserables” premieres Sunday on PBS at 9/8c. 

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