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Local 'Selma' star on 'one of the most important movies of our generation'

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  • Paramount Pictures
  • FOLLOW THE LEADERS: Andrew Young (from left, André Holland), Ralph Abernathy (Colman Domingo), Martin Luther King, Jr. (David Oyelowo), and James Orange (Omar Dorsey)



Last time most people saw Atlanta native Omar Dorsey, he was playing a homicidal "maniac" in Showtime's "Ray Donovan" — his words, not ours.

But Dorsey's next big screen role will be as the Rev. James Orange in the star-studded historical drama Selma, which shot in the Atlanta area this summer.

It's a role that Dorsey says he had to take, even more so given his violent small-screen role. "I think the film is going to be one of the most important movies of our generation, actually," he says.

Dorsey talks a lot about Selma's importance — and beauty, even in confronting some of the South's ugliest moments. Selma, written by Paul Webb and directed by Ava DuVernay, traces the 1965 voting rights marches across Alabama and follows many of the movement's central figures, both heroes and villains, including Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, Gov. George Wallace, and Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson.

Selma shot in Conyers, Covington, Marietta, and Downtown, among other locations. Its cast list positively glows, with Cuba Gooding Jr., Common, Wendell Pierce, Lorraine Toussaint, Tom Wilkinson, David Oyelowo, and more — and Oprah. "And the list could go on," Dorsey says. "You know man, this cast is one of the most beautiful things that that’s been a part of my life."

Dorsey describes Orange as one of the movement's benevolent figures. The pastor, who lived in Atlanta during the heart of the Civil Rights Movement in the '60s, was well known at the time for his commitment to a philosophy of non-violence.

At the same time, recreating one of the most important, and most violent, periods in Southern history — including “Bloody Sunday,” which included assaults by law enforcement on hundreds of marchers — was not something Dorsey, or his costars, took on lightly.

"This has been given to us, to tell the story, so that we have to tell it at its highest. ... We knew that we were standing on the shoulders of giants," he says.

That kind of legacy weighed on them. But it bonded them, too.

Before the last day of shooting, when they were to actually march into Montgomery, Dorsey says the cast gathered in a hotel screening room and watched a documentary about that same moment in history.

"We sat there, cried, prayed, laughed, it was just something that was so powerful, so majestic," Dorsey says. "It was something that I’ve never been a part of anything like that before. That’s why this is always going to be my family."



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