Common and Tessa Thompson in Ava DuVernay's "Selma"

Common and Tessa Thompson in Ava DuVernay’s “Selma”

*”Selma” star Common says Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was the first African American man that he identified as being a hero to both blacks and whites. He “looked up to” the civil rights icon as a youngster, but his attitudes were altered somewhat when he got older and began learning about Malcolm X.

“It became a point in my life where I became real Malcolm Xist and was like, ‘I don’t know, Martin may be soft,’” Common recalled at a press conference for the film Sunday in New York.

Common attends the "Selma" New York Premiere at Ziegfeld Theater on December 14, 2014 in New York City

Common attends the “Selma” New York Premiere at Ziegfeld Theater on December 14, 2014 in New York City

The rapper, last seen on the AMC series “Hell on Wheels,” stars as real life Southern Christian Leadership Conference stand out James Bevel in the upcoming film.

Birmingham, Alabama. August 13, 1965. The Rev. James Bevel, action director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, (left), poses with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. SCLC president, Friday after suggesting the SCLC might form an international peace army to promote the nonviolent movement and settle world conflicts without war.

Birmingham, Alabama. August 13, 1965. The Rev. James Bevel, action director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, (left), poses with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. SCLC president, after suggesting the SCLC might form an international peace army to promote the nonviolent movement and settle world conflicts without war.

Bevel worked closely with Dr. King during the 1965 Selma Voting Rights Movement, which is detailed in director Ava Duvernay’s movie.

Below, Common explains how he evolved from believing King “may be soft,” to recognizing the inner fortitude it takes to turn the other cheek.

“Selma” opens nationwide on Christmas Day.

Watch the trailer below: