O-T Fagbenle: Man for the Job

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Everyone’s American. Just joking,” quips actor O-T Fagbenle when asked whether there’s a difference working on American and British TV series. “I don’t think there is anymore, I think once a upon a time, there was a big difference, but nowadays, I don’t think so, especially on shows like The Interceptor where the production values were so high.”

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O-T, which is short for Olatunde, is half-Nigerian who grew up both in Spain and London. He was last seen portraying a gay musician from Ohio named Frank in the recently concluded HBO original series Looking. And speaking of music, he’s an accomplished alto saxophone player and was part of a band called South Coast Jazz Band when he was still living in Spain. “When you play a saxophone, your whole body vibrates, and there’s something really beautiful about that. When you play with people, you’re sharing this moment in the ether, this moment in space and time, the music created isn’t in any particular individual, but it’s somewhere in the center. There’s something really magical about being in tune and literally being in harmony with other people,” shares O-T. He pursued theater when he was 14 and was professionally trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. Eventually, he transitioned to doing TV sitcoms (Grownups, Material Girl, Little Miss Jocelyn) and series (Doctor Who, Maple, Thorne).

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O-T in the HBO Original series Looking

With his latest crime thriller project on BBC One, The Interceptor, he plays the titular role of Ash, who joins an elite covert operation, listening to the phone calls, and getting enough information to help take down the biggest criminals in Britain. “Episode to episode, we watch Ash coming into conflicts with his boss, society, and secrets from his family as he tries to make his way up the criminal ladder and fight for justice. I don’t know how much power you have in making something good. That’s for other people to judge, but what I try and focus on is just giving my best at every moment and hoping for the result,” shares O-T. By this time, he probably wrapped up filming his next project, a ten-part drama for Sky in the UK. At this point, no matter what O-T brings to the table, he’ll make sure that it will be memorable and never half-baked. The man will always be up for a good challenge.

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YOU’RE A TALENTED MAN, AN ACTOR, MUSICIAN, DIRECTOR, AND WRITER. WHAT IS THERE AS A PERFORMER THAT YOU STILL HAVEN’T DONE BUT WOULD WANT TO DABBLE ON IN THIS LIFETIME?

Thank you very much for the compliment, first of all, I kind of feel like there’s so much work I have to do as a writer and director, and indeed as an actor ahead of me that I think I have already got enough on my plate to keep me challenged, entertained, and inspired for the rest of my life so no, no more inspirations for me. Although, I’m learning how to box at the moment, which I’m finding very exciting.

WHAT FOR YOU IS MORE DIFFICULT TO DO, PLAYING A COMEDIC SCENE OR DRAMATIC SCENE?

Definitely drama, though comedy is so hard too. It’s so subjective, and I think there’s a lot more flexibility in drama. Although, I always have a rule that I try to find the comedy in the drama and the drama in the comedy. So, maybe it’s the same.

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“I always have a rule that I try to find the comedy in the drama and the drama in the comedy.”

WHAT DO YOU LIKE DOING THE MOST, THEATER, TV, OR MOVIE ACTING?

I don’t know if I could choose. It’s like choosing between your children, I couldn’t do it! But, it depends on the project. It’s more about the project and the people I’m working with. I love doing work that challenges people’s perceptions, and makes them think about things in a different way. So, I would say that’s what I like doing the most rather than a specific genre.

WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE THAT YOU WANTED TO PURSUE A CAREER IN ACTING?

It’s kind of like the chicken and the egg. I don’t know what happened first, but I guess love happened first. I realized I loved acting, so I knew that I had to pursue it, because I believe that people should always pursue love. When in doubt, pursue love, and I think being good at something is often a product of love rather than the other way around.

@otfagbenle

Published in STATUS Magazine, July 2015

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