By Samantha Ofole-Prince
In Hollywood there are actors and trained thespians, with several degrees of separation between the two. For British actor Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, who is known for bringing humanity to his roles, his school of acting is what he calls the “rough academy.”
“I didn’t train as an actor and didn’t go to Rada,” says Adewale, referencing Britain's premier acting school. “My Rada as I call it was the rough and dirty academy. I came in the back door, and my tough upbringing coupled with my education in law was really the foundation and source for my acting career.”
A huge favorite amongst “Oz” fans -- the successful HBO prison drama, where the former-model-turned actor played a menacing gang leader called Simon Adebisi, Adewale has been amassing a steady body of work since “Lost,” and faces off against Dewayne Johnson (“The Scorpion King”) in the action flick “Faster.”
Directed by George Tillman (“Notorious,” “Men of Honor,” “Soul Food”), “Faster” tells the story of an ex-con (Johnson), who sets out to avenge his brother's death after they were double-crossed during a bank robbery.
“It’s an action packed ride with heart, which deals with real issues of revenge, forgiveness and redemption,” explains Adewale, who plays a bank robber turned evangelist. “But there is a dept that the audience will be surprised with, because it’s done in a very clever way.”
Written by Tony and Joe Gayton, “Faster” also stars Billy Bob Thornton (“Monster's Ball”) as a cop, who’s determined to bring Johnson to justice and the attraction for Adewale was the many layers the film offered.
“What I liked about it when I read the script, was that every single character in it has an arc, which is difficult to do with film, because you don’t have a lot of time to tell the story,” adds the 43-year-old actor.
With movies “GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra” and a list of upcoming projects including the prequel to John Carpenter’s “The Thing,” the action genre is a familiar field for Adewale.
“Certainly for the industry that’s the obvious. I am a big, black man and that’s kinda what’s been given to me,” says the actor. “It’s more difficult for a black actor to get those roles of diversity, and so when I get these roles, I always try to inject a level of humanity. So no matter whether they are guys like Adebisi, I try to show a level and texture,” explains Adewale, who hails from Nigerian heritage, but was born and raised in the United Kingdom. “I’ve been rewarded this year by a lot of diverse roles,” he continues, “I have played a plethora and my intention has always been to press upon the industry and public that I am an artist as opposed to a black actor.”
It’s a certainly a method which has paid off for Adewale, as the director George Tillman felt that he was the perfect actor for the pivotal character in “Faster.”
“I always see Adewale’s work on television, and film and I knew he was good,” adds Tillman, “but when I saw his audition tape, I was blown away. He’s a strong actor, and is the one guy whose scenes in the movie became one of my favorites for he’s just amazing. I really think he should play Martin Luther King, because he’s so good in the movie and I think he is one of the best actors working out there.”