Actor David Oyelowo brings new meaning to the term well-traveled. He’s lived on three continents (in London, Lagos, and Los Angeles) and has shot films and TV shows all over the world. His latest film, The Midnight Sky, finds him in the wildest location yet: floating in outer space near one of Jupiter’s moons. Okay, it wasn’t outer space. “We shot our portion of the film in London,” says Oyelowo. “London is where I grew up and spent a lot of my life. We were at Shepperton Studios. I always love having an excuse to go back to my country of birth.”
In anticipation of the new movie, which was directed by George Clooney and is now available on Netflix, Oyelowo chatted with Condé Nast Traveler about showers in first class, Nigerian markets, and his eternal struggles with hotel lamps.
What he misses most about travel:
I love living in L.A., but in L.A. you have about 9 to 10 months of sunshine. The skies are blue almost every day—which is phenomenal, don’t get me wrong! But one of the things that makes living in L.A. so much more sweet is going to other places. I really enjoy coming back to L.A. after having been in London in the winter months. Shooting The Midnight Sky, we were there January and February, when it is particularly cold. I felt smug coming back to L.A. to sunny, blue skies.
His most memorable filming locations to date:
I did a show called Small Island and we shot that in Kingston, Jamaica. It’s just like nowhere else I’ve been on earth. I also did a limited series called The Passion, which is the Passion of Christ, but not Mel Gibson’s version. We shot that in Ouarzazate in Morocco, where they actually shot Gladiator. We were in the desert. I think of A United Kingdom set in Botswana, a beautiful, beautiful country. We were close to the border with South Africa. Those were some of the amazing places I’ve had the opportunity to shoot.
His preferred mode of transportation:
My favorite form of travel is probably first-class travel. I had the opportunity to fly Emirates a while ago. Wow! That was quite amazing. Having a shower while up 30,000 feet in the sky is a very unique feeling.
What’s in his carry-on bag:
The thing that’s really annoying to me—so many of us have these iPhones, and the headphones for the iPhone have a different plug than you have on the planes. So I must remember to take my headphones that have the appropriate plug for planes to be able to watch movies. Especially now in the pandemic world, you don’t want to be sharing headphones that tons of other people have worn, but even before the pandemic, I wasn’t a fan of that. So I’ve got to make sure I have the appropriate headphones with me. Comfortable socks are absolutely the way forward. Most of the time, I’m traveling somewhere to do a film, so I have my script close by. I find it a very good place to dig into my scripts.
The other way he spends flight time:
I tend to watch those movies that, to be perfectly frank, didn’t particularly grab me enough to make me leave my house and [go to see] in a movie theater, but [are] curious enough that I will press play while I’m on a 10- or 11-hour flight. Those movies that were a little bit on the bubble for me as to whether I want to watch them or not.
His final vacation before the pandemic:
The last trip I took for fun was last summer. My family and I were in Maui, I’ve been a few times now. I just love the micro-climates there. You can be driving on the island of Maui and within minutes you are in what feels like a cloud, and then you burst through the cloud into a beautiful sunny rainbow situation because you’re coming from condensation in the air, to where there is sun. Go down the beach and it’s actually hot compared to where you were just 15 minutes ago.
His recommendations for visitors to Nigeria:
To really immerse yourself in the colorful, bustling, amazing, unique place that Nigeria is, I think you just have to pass through Lagos. It is a place like no other. It’s like New York, London—think of every major city and then compact it and then turn the volume up. You’ve got to pop to Lagos, and you’ve got to go to one of the markets in Lagos. Tejuosho Market is a place that’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The amenities he searches for in a good hotel:
The two things I really want out of a hotel is definitely a good gym. Whether it’s at the top of the day, that gets my mind right, or the end of the day, it just knocks me out and enables me to go straight to sleep. But I also want lighting that is not complicated. There are so many hotels you go to now that they’ve got this fancy lighting—the amount of times I’ve had to call the concierge to get someone up to help me turn the lights out so I could go to sleep! I just want a good, old-fashioned light switch.
His favorite hotel in the world:
The one in New York—the Mandarin Oriental! I love those hotels, partly because of the toilet seats. Those Japanese contraptions that… I’m not going to be gross in this interview, but they help you with your toilet-going in a way that’s really wonderful. To the point where, for my birthday, my wife bought me one of those toilet seats we experienced at the Mandarin.
The destination he could travel to a million times and not be sick of it:
Fiji. My family and I spent a Christmas in Fiji a couple of years ago. My goodness, what an astoundingly beautiful place. Beaches the likes of which you just will not see anywhere. The people are so friendly and wonderful and welcoming. It still goes down as my family’s favorite holiday of all time.
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