“The only way you can influence your fate is to put your soul into your performance and hope it registers with the audience.” Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje
British actor and former male fashion model of African lineage Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje is popular among American television audiences for his role of Simon Adebisi in HBO's “Oz” (1997-2000) and as Mr. Eko in ABC's “Lost” (2005-2006). He was handed two Image nominations for the first role and a SAG Award and a Saturn nomination for the latter. Adewale received a Black Reel nomination for his supporting turn in the Showtime original biopic “Enslavement: The True Story of Fanny Kemble” (2000). Talking about the series “Lost,” he stated, “I've never been really great at trusting anybody just because of the way I grew up. I was always led to believe you should take care of yourself, trust in your abilities and you're the author of your own destiny. Coming to this show is the opposite.”
Starting out as a model in Milan, the London born, Nigerian raised striking performer moved to Hollywood after completing his master's degree in law at London's prestigious King's College University. He made his acting debut in a 1994 episode of Showtime's “Red Shoe Diaries” and appeared in several films, including Frank Marshall's “Congo” (1995), Steve Oedekerk's “Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls” (1995, starred Jim Carrey), Stephen Sommers' “The Mummy Returns” (2001, as Lock-Nah), Doug Liman's “The Bourne Identity” (2002, starred Matt Damon) and Jim Sheridan's “Get Rich or Die Tryin'” (2005, with 50 Cent). He recently acted in the movie “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” (2009, again directed by Sommers), which was a commercial success.
In September 2006, Adewale was arrested in Honolulu, Hawaii, after disobeying a police officer and riding a motor vehicle without a license. He spent six hours in jail before being released on $500 bail. Later that same month, Adewale was cleared of all charges after he proved he had a license.
Childhood and Family:
Adewale Rotimi O. C. E. Akinnuoye Agbaje, who would later be popular as Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, was born on August 22, 1967, in London, England, to Nigerian immigrants. Shortly thereafter, he relocated to Nigeria where he and his four sisters were raised by a foster family while their parents launched careers. Adewale returned to London when he was 15 years old. He holds a masters degree in law from King's College University in London.
Adewale is a devout Buddhist and goes by the nicknames Wally and Triple A. His family calls him Wally, while others who cannot pronounce his name call him Triple A. He stated, “I'm of Nigerian descent from the Yoruba tribe. Names are very significant in that culture. It basically states your purpose in life.”
He added, “Wale means to arrive home so the crown has arrived home. Akin is warrior or brave man. Nuoye is a brave man of chieftaincy and Agbaje means wealth and prosperity. So when you link that all together...”
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje began his career as a model in Milan and after receiving his master's degree, headed to Los Angeles to further pursue his acting career. He quickly appeared in the popular music videos “Giving Him Something He Can Feel” and “Love No Limit” (both 1992) by EnVogue and Mary J Blige, respectively, and landed a guest spot in the 1994 episode “Written Word” of the David Duchovny series “Red Shoe Diaries” (Showtime, 1992-1999).
In 1995, Adewale was cast as Kahega, Munro Kelly's (played by Ernie Hudson) guide, in Frank Marshall's adventure movie “Congo.” He then supported Costas Mandylor, Rory Campbell and Audie England in Zalman King's “Delta of Venus,” and memorably portrayed tribal security chief Hitu in the Jim Carrey comedy vehicle “Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls,” directed and written by Steve Oedekerk. The same year, he also appeared in an episode of the Fox police drama “New York Undercover.”
Adewale made his TV movie debut in “Deadly Voyage” (1996), a HBO thriller directed by John Mackenzie and written by Stuart Urban. In the movie, he had the important role of Emmanuel, opposite Omar Epps as Kingsley Ofusu. It was followed by another substantial role in the ABC miniseries “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” (1997), adapted from Jules Verne's classic science fiction novel of the same name. Costars in the latter included Michael Caine, Patrick Dempsey, Mia Sara and Bryan Brown. Still that year, he played John Doe, a young clergyman who becomes the suspect in a series of gruesome murders, in the ABC mystery series “Cracker” episode “Madwoman,” and Ambassador Odeku in the action series “Pensacola: Wings of Gold” episode “Fallout.”
However, Adewale did not experience a huge breakthrough until he was cast as Simon Adebisi, a convict and gang leader, in the HBO prison series “Oz,” created by Tom Fontana. He was on the show from 1997 to 2000 and nominated for Image Awards for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series in 2000 and Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series in 2001. While still on the show, he also portrayed the recurring role of a Nigerian cab driver named Winston Iwelu in the Showtime comedy series “Linc's” (1998) and the supporting role of Joe in Showtime’s original biopic “Enslavement: The True Story of Fanny Kemble” (2000), which starred Jane Seymour as Fanny Kemble Butler. He was nominated for a Black Reel for Network/Cable - Best Supporting Actor for his performance in the latter movie.
Adewale next costarred with action star Jean-Claude Van Damme in the Peter MacDonald helmed “Legionnaire” (1998). After he left “Oz,” the well-built actor portrayed Lock-Nah in the box office hit “The Mummy Returns” (2001), a sequel to the 1999 film “The Mummy.” The highly successful sequel was written and directed by Stephen Sommers. After working with Jami Gertz and Sybil Temtchine in the independent comedy “Lip Service” (2001), he had the prominent supporting role of Nykwana Wombosi in the hit movie “The Bourne Identity” (2002).
The following years found roles in such films as “Unstoppable” (2004), a thriller helmed by David Carson and starring Wesley Snipes, “Black/Blue” (2005), a six minute British short where he starred as The Target, “The Mistress of Spices” (2005), which starred Aishwarya Rai and Dylan McDermott, and Charles Randolph-Wright's award winning musical “On the One” (2005). He then gave a notable performance as drug kingpin Majestic in “Get Rich or Die Tryin'” (2005), a semi-autobiographical film about rapper 50 Cent that was directed by Oscar nominee Jim Sheridan.
Still in 2005, Adewale returned to the small screen by joining the cast of the hit ABC adventure series “Lost” in the second season. Playing Mr. Eko, a former drug lord-turned-priest, he was nominated for a Saturn for Best Supporting Actor on Television and jointly won a Screen Actors Guild in the category of Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series (both 2006). He was on the show for 28 episodes from September 2005 to November 2006.
In 2009, Adewale starred as Heavy Duty, an artillery expert, in “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra,” a live action film adapted from the “G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero” toy franchise. Despite receiving mixed reviews, the film has grossed over $283 million worldwide. He also played Samuel Waingaya in the 2009 episode “Mr. Monk and the Foreign Man” of the USA Network police procedural series “Monk,” which stars Tony Shalhoub.
Screen Actors Guild: Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series, “Lost,” 2006