"She is the person who knows me better than anyone else in the world," David Oyelowo says of his wife, Jessica

By Nigel Smith
July 27, 2020 12:05 PM
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Karen Ballard courtesy of The Water Man

For his directorial debut, Golden Globe-nominated actor David Oyelowo (Selma, The Butler) counted on his wife, Jessica, to help steer him in the right direction.

The Water Man, written by Emma Needel, sees Oyelowo pull triple duty, directing, producing and starring in the drama alongside Rosario Dawson, This Is Us star Lonnie Chavis, Amiah Miller (War for the Planet of the Apes), Alfred Molina and Maria Bello. To help direct his own performance, Oyelowo says he looked to his wife for advice, "especially for the first two weeks of shooting."

"She is the person who knows me better than anyone else in the world," Oyelowo, 44, tells PEOPLE. "And so I knew that if I was faking it in any way, she would be the one to be able to call it out. After every take, I would look towards her for the thumbs up or the thumbs down. Thankfully, there were more thumbs up than down."

In The Water Man, Oyelowo plays Amos, father to Gunner (Chavis), a young boy who embarks on a journey with a local misfit Jo (Miller) to try and save his ill mother (played by Dawson). As Gunner sets out to to find the Water Man, who has been said to have the power to cheat death, Amos goes out in search of his son.

"It's a story about love, and the things we're prepared to do for love," says Oyelowo. "I was just so touched by the idea of a son wanting to do everything he can to save his mother. The film is also very akin to the kind of films I loved growing up, the kind of films Steven Spielberg made, or films like The Goonies and Gremlins and Stand By Me."

David Oyelowo and wife Jessica

For the film, Oyelowo reunited with his frequent collaborator and close friend, Oprah Winfrey. The pair acted alongside each other in both The Butler and Selma, the latter of which she also produced. On The Water Man, Winfrey serves as executive producer.

"From the moment I met her, she's just been a huge advocate of mine and a big believer in me. It's why she came alongside me," says Oyelowo. "When I talked to Oprah about wanting to direct this, she's just someone who is never failing in her support of me. And so it was a very natural thing for her to come onboard to produce with her company. She's just a perpetual source of support for me. And that is something I don't take lightly."

The Water Man is currently in post-production and will be released at a later date.