Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje: Biography, Age, Movies, Family & Career

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Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje: Biography, Age, Movies, Family & Career

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (/ˌædˈwɑːl ˌækɪˈn ɑːˈbɑː/; born 22 August 1967) is a British actor, director, and former fashion model known for his roles as Simon Adebisi on Oz, Nykwana Wombosi in The Bourne Identity, Kurse in Thor: The Dark World, Killer Croc in Suicide Squad, Mr. Eko on Lost, Malko in the fifth season of the HBO series Game of Thrones and Dave Duerson in the NFL biopic drama Concussion.

Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s feature directorial debut, Farming wrapped production in 2017 and had its world premiere at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival.

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Early life and education

Akinnuoye-Agbaje was born in Islington, London, to Nigerian parents of Yoruba origin, who were students in the UK. When he was six weeks old, his biological parents gave him up to a white working-class family in Tilbury, Essex. This was a common practice in this era among Nigerian families when parents sent young children to live in the UK with white foster parents in the hopes their children would have better lives. His foster parents had at least ten African children, including Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s two sisters, living in their house at certain points. His foster father made a living as a lorry driver and struggled to support the family financially.

Akinnuoye-Agbaje at a Red Cross benefit at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, 28 February 2007

When he was eight years old, his biological parents brought him back to Nigeria but, as he was unable to speak the Yoruba language and forbidden by his parents to speak English, he was returned to Tilbury shortly thereafter. The brief exposure to Nigeria left him struggling to reconcile his heritage with the distinctly British culture and environment he was raised in. As a young boy, facing a cultural identity crisis, he joined a local skinhead gang in order to escape racial persecution at their hands. At 16 years old, having become a thief, his foster parents sent him to a boarding school in Surrey where he ultimately attempted suicide before coming to terms with his background and turning his life around.

He went on to earn a Law degree from King’s College London and a Masters in Law from the University of London International Programme. While a university student, Akinnuoye-Agbaje worked in a clothes shop where he was introduced to the world of modelling.

Career

Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s modelling career led him to Hollywood, where he began his acting career with a 1995 role in Congo.

His best known acting roles have been as the imposing convict Simon Adebisi in the 1990s HBO prison series Oz and as Mr Eko on ABC’s survivor drama Lost. Film roles include The Bourne Identity, in which he played a deposed African dictator, Hitu the police officer in Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, Lock-Nah in The Mummy Returns, and Heavy Duty in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. He was also featured in the video for singer-songwriter Grayson Hugh’s hit “Talk It Over”, which was in heavy rotation in 1989 on MTV and VH-1.

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In 2009, Akinnuoye-Agbaje was in talks with Marvel Studios to play the superhero Black Panther in a proposed film of the same name. In an interview, he stated his excitement about the possibility, saying that “the timing is so right” for a black superhero, and “while I’m in my prime, this is the time… I’m going to keep knocking on their door.” In 2014 Marvel did announce a Black Panther film, though with Chadwick Boseman in the title role.

He guest-starred in the second episode of season 8 of Monk and played Derek Jameson in the 2011 film The Thing. He portrayed Kurse in the Marvel Studios film Thor: The Dark World. He portrayed the character Malko in the fifth season of Game of Thrones. In 2015 it was reported that Akinnuoye-Abaje voices the lead character of Bilal, a film about the life of Bilal Ibn Rabah set to be released in the second half of the year. In 2016, he co-starred in the DC Comics film Suicide Squad, as the Batman villain Killer Croc.

Directing career

In 2012, Akinnuoye-Agbaje stated that he had been developing a film about his life story, which he also planned to direct. The film is called Farming, in reference to the practice of Nigerian parents “farming out” their children to white UK families. In May 2017, he announced that casting on the film had begun with Damson Idris in the lead role as Enitan, Kate Beckinsale playing his abusive, neglectful foster mother and Gugu Mbatha-Raw as his teacher and mentor.

Personal life

Akinnuoye-Agbaje lives in Los Angeles. He is a Nichiren Buddhist and a member of the Soka Gakkai International Buddhist association.

Akinnuoye-Agbaje asked to be written off Lost, citing a desire to return to London after his parents’ deaths and to direct a film there.

Filmography

Film

Year Title Role Director Notes
1995 Congo Kahega Frank Marshall Credited as Adewalé
1995 Delta of Venus The Clairvoyant Zalman King
1995 Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls Hitu Steve Oedekerk
1996 The Deadly Voyage Emmanuel John Mackenzie
1998 Legionnaire Luther Peter MacDonald
2001 The Mummy Returns Lock-Nah Stephen Sommers
2001 Lip Service Sebastion Shawn Schepps
2002 The Bourne Identity Nykwana Wombosi Doug Liman
2004 Unstoppable Agent Junod David Carson
2005 The Mistress of Spices Kwesi Paul Mayeda Berges
2005 On the One (Preaching to the Choir) Bull Sharky Charles Randolph-Wright
2005 Get Rich or Die Tryin’ Majestic Jim Sheridan
2009 G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra Heavy Duty Stephen Sommers
2010 Faster The Evangelist George Tillman, Jr.
2011 Killer Elite The Agent Gary McKendry
2011 The Thing Derek Jameson Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.
2012 Best Laid Plans Joseph David Blair
2013 Bullet to the Head Morel Walter Hill
2013 Thor: The Dark World Algrim the Strong / Kurse Alan Taylor
2013 The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete Pike George Tillman, Jr.
2014 Pompeii Atticus Paul W.S. Anderson
2014 Annie Nash Will Gluck
2015 Trumbo Virgil Brooks Jay Roach Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
2015 Concussion Dave Duerson Peter Landesman
2016 Bilal Bilal (voice) Khurram Alavi
2016 Suicide Squad Waylon Jones / Killer Croc David Ayer
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Television

Year Title Role Notes
1994 Red Shoe Diaries Davis Bateman Episode: “Written Word”
1995 New York Undercover Cliff Ramsey Episode: “Downtown Girl”
1996 Screen Two Emmanuel Episode: “Deadly Voyage”
1997 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Cabe Attucks 2 episodes
1997 Cracker: Mind Over Murder John Doe Episode: “Madwoman”
1997 Pensacola: Wings of Gold Ambassador Odeku Episode: “Fallout”
1997–2000 Oz Simon Adebisi 32 episodes
Nominated—NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series
Nominated—NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
1998 Linc’s Winston Iwelu Episode: “Gangsta Rap”
2000 Enslavement: The True Story of Fanny Kemble Joe Television movie
2005–2006 Lost Mr Eko 21 episodes
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
Nominated—Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor on Television
2009 Monk Samuel Waingaya Episode: “Mr Monk and the Foreign Man”
2011 Strike Back: Project Dawn Tahir 2 episodes
2012 Hunted Deacon Crane 8 episodes
2015 American Odyssey Frank Majors 9 episodes
2015 Major Lazer Major Lazer/Evil Lazer (voice) 11 episodes
2015 Game of Thrones Malko 2 episodes
2017 Tangled: The Series Xavier the Blacksmith (voice) 5 episodes
2017 Tour de Pharmacy Olusegun Okorocha Television movie
2017 Ten Days in the Valley John Bird 10 episodes
2018 Watership Down Vervain (voice)
2019 The Fix Sevvy Johnson

Music videos

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  • “Talk It Over” – Grayson Hugh (1989)
  • “Jealousy” – Pet Shop Boys (1991)
  • “Giving Him Something He Can Feel” – En Vogue (1992)
  • “Love No Limit” – Mary J. Blige (1993)
  • “I Want It All Night Long” – Heather Hunter (1993)
  • “You Don’t Love Me (No, No, No)” – Dawn Penn (1994)
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