*So what’s the secret to playing former Alabama Governor George Wallace on the big screen?

“You’ve gotta tap into your inner racist. Everybody’s got one,” joked British actor Tim Roth, who suits up as the segregationist and chief foe of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in “Selma.”

The numerous marches and protests over voter registration in Alabama prompted Wallace to ban nighttime demonstrations in the cities of Selma and Marion.

George Wallace on His Campaign Trail (Feb 19, 1968), Pittsburgh, PA

George Wallace on His Campaign Trail (Feb 19, 1968), Pittsburgh, PA

The Justice Department sued to prevent the state from punishing people for protesting…and won, which prompted Wallace to come out and condemn the judge’s ruling, claiming his state couldn’t provide the security needed to protect the marchers. He called on President Johnson for help, and the White House eventually responded with an executive order federalizing the Alabama National Guard.

tim roth selma

Actor Tim Roth attends the “Selma” New York Premiere at Ziegfeld Theater on December 14, 2014 in New York City.

Roth, who said his mother and American-born father were “full-on lefties,” grew up in a family that was “taken to demonstrations,” like “throwing stones at skinheads.”

“We were brought up that way, to be socially active,” he told journalists at a recent press conference. “So King was a presence in our house, as was Wallace. Wallace was a monstrous human being when we were kids. He was a very flat, two-dimensional kind of animal and someone to loathe, for good reason.”

Below, the actor explains what it’s like to play a historical character that is so diametrically opposed to his own beliefs.

“Selma” opens nationwide on Jan. 9.

Watch the trailer below: