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David Oyelowo; Lessons From a Hostage’s Incredible Story

captiveOn March 11, 2005, an accused rapist named Brian Nichols fled from an Atlanta courthouse, killing four people during his escape and taking officers on a dangerous manhunt through the city.


While on the run, Nichols held an unsuspecting stranger, Ashley Smith, hostage for seven hours.

Armed with a gun, Nichols forced his way into Smith’s apartment as she was arriving home and during teh seven hours that he held her hostage, Smith, a widowed mother struggling with addiction, made a deliberate effort to connect with her kidnapper. She spoke about her own life. She had just completed her third stint in rehab and had given up custody of her 5-year-old daughter

She asked about Nichols’ own life, read aloud from The Purpose Driven Life and even made Nichols pancakes. Eventually, Nichols surrendered himself to police, and the nightmare was finally over. Smith is now a sober mother of three, and today, Nichols is behind bars, serving multiple life sentences without parole.

Ashley’s story was recently made into a feature film, Captive, which stars David Oyelowo. 

“Captive,” which opened everywhere Friday, stars Kate Mara and David Oyelowo as Smith and Nichols.

Now, for the first time, Ashley sits down with Oprah, David and Nichols’ mother, Claritha. Ashley says she’s honored to finally meet Claritha, who has never spoken publicly about her son.

Ashley, spoke to Oprah about her terrifying ordeal. At the time, Ashley told Oprah how she made Nichols pancakes, hoping to appeal to his humanity, and encouraged him to surrender, which he eventually did. 

After embracing Ashley, Claritha recounted the one conversation they had previously. “One of the first things I thanked Ashley for was showing some kindness to Brian by fixing him some pancakes,” Claritha says. “That meant so much to him.” 


Even though it’s been a decade since Nichols’ crime spree, Ashley and Claritha say that day still haunts them. Watch as they share the lasting affects.

Oyelowo also recently spoke with Oprah about his experience portraying a real-life killer and what he hopes others will take away from Smith’s harrowing — and eventually triumphant — story.

“In my life, there are mistakes I’ve made. There are second chances I’ve hoped for. There are choices made that are questionable, that have gone on to have an effect,” he says. “I really hope that people are able to watch the film and come away knowing that there can be a second chance for them.”

But there’s also another important takeaway from Smith and Nichols’ interaction, he continues.

“One of the things I truly believe is the reason why Brian didn’t kill Ashley and [why] she managed to thaw him… was looking at him as a human being,” Oyelowo says. “Allowing him to feel seen.”

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