Exclusive: “Selma” Director Talks Archbishop Iakovos Portrayal in Her Golden Globe Nominated Film

Archbishop_Iakovos_Dr_King_Selma
A still image from “Selma” showing Archbishop Iakovos and Dr. King as they march.

We met director Ava DuVernay on the red carpet of the 72nd Golden Globe Awards and talked about Archbishop Iakovos’ portrayal in her Golden Globe nominated film “Selma.” She says it was important to have him in the film because he was one of the first community leaders to support Dr. King.

The Greek-Orthodox Archbishop was a strong supporter of the 1964 Civil Rights legislation for which he had also received death threats. Watch our interview with Ava DuVernay talking about Archbishop Iakovos, biracial tensions in today’s America, plus an interview with Selma star David Oyelowo:

RELATED: WATCH OUR FULL COVERAGE FROM THE GOLDEN GLOBES RED CARPET

Archbishop Iakovos was known in the U.S. as the committed and caring pastor who put the Greek Orthodox Faith on the map for Americans and beyond. He was the first Greek Archbishop in 350 years to officially confer with a pope, leaving behind a tremendous body of work as the primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in North and South America for 37 years.

However, Iakovos was also a champion of civil and human rights who showed his support to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. not only with his words, but also with his actions. He was one of the first powerful people to embrace the ideas of Dr. King and march hand in hand with him in 1965 in Selma, Ala.

“He had received threats if he would dare to walk with Dr. King, but he never thought twice of his decision,” says a close aid and friend of the Archbishop.

This historic moment for America was captured on the cover of LIFE Magazine on March 26, 1965. Archbishop Iakovos with Dr. Martin Luther King

The New York Times reported, “The striking cover of Time magazine that showed Dr. King side by side with the black-garbed Archbishop Iakovos marked a new presence of Greek Americans and the Greek Orthodox church in American life.”

Iakovos vigorously supported the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights legislation, exclaiming when the first bill was passed:

“Glory to the Most High! May this mark the beginning of a new age for all humankind, an era when the Word of God charts and guides our lives.”

Iakovos’ decision to support Dr. King, and the publicity his action received, brought Greek-Americans and African-Americans much closer, resulting in a friendship that the two communities celebrate until this day!

The enthronement of Archbishop Iakovos took place on April 1, 1959 at Holy Trinity Cathedral in New York City. He served as Archbishop until 1996 and passed away on April 10, 2005 (at age 93).


  • Thank you for this fact….I also believe the Greek Orthodox Church was the only Christian Religion that castigated the Nazis during the war for their treatment of the Jews and the Holocaust.

    • Polycrates

      Have you seen what has happened in Libya, Egypt and Syria to Orthodox Christians? They only people that should be allowed refugee status into Europe should be these persecuted Christians.

      • Andriana Carnation

        i totally agree with you

  • Polycrates

    Selma deserved to receive the Best Fictional Movie of 2014. The portrayals of LBJ were inaccurate and another attempt from Hollywood to use racial inequality as bait for civil unrest. Frankly the US has had enough cries of Racism. Americans of African origin have been on the continent almost 400 years and yet they still use the “Slave Syndrome”, an excuse used for LBJ’s Great Society that milked their nation of four trillion USD and have almost nothing to show for it. It’s time to move off the bridge past the police dogs, water canons and get a life.

  • Anonymous

    Archbishop Iakovos,

    I recently read an article which attributed Phyletism to you, because
    you prevent non-Greek Americans from joining Greek Orthodox Churches
    since you think it will harm your relations with the Ecumenical
    Patriarch. Not only is this selfish, but it also seems racists (and it
    is totally un-Christian!). What New Testament have you been reading?
    Christ does not discriminate between people. You are a selfish human
    being, unworthy of being a shepherd, and should be ashamed of yourself.

    “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut
    the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do
    not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” (Matthew
    23:13).

    Whatever happened to the Great Commission to preach the Gospel to EVERY creature?

    May God help your selfish soul! You Greeks come into OUR country and
    treat our people poorly! You’re lucky we’re even allowing you to be
    here!

    Euthymios

    P.S. Here is the article.

    Tragic State of Orthodoxy in America (Review of the book ‘A Church in
    Captivity: The Greek Orthodox Church in America by George Edmund
    Matsoukas, who is one of the best informed Greek Orthodox laymen.

    http://archive.ocl.org/?id=19191