David Oyelowo, who plays Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the Golden Globe-nominated film Selma, was photographed by John Scarisbrick for TIME’s Best of Culture 2014.

Selma centers around the voter rights movement led by King ahead of the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“Great storytelling, great writing is always going through the highest moment of tension, the deepest moment of conflict, and that’s what this represented,” Oyelowo says of the film.

Above, go behind the scenes of TIME’s photo shoot with the British actor.

Write to Diane Tsai at diane.tsai@time.com.

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