Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje is one of those actors who makes an immediate impression when you see him onscreen, whether it was on the HBO series “Oz,” where he played the rightly-feared Adebisi, or on “Lost,” where he was Mr. Eko, one of the many intriguing loose ends that the show dangled over the years.
When we sat down to talk last week, though, it was regarding his role as Jameson in the new prequel to John Carpenter’s 1982 horror film, “The Thing.” He’s paired with Joel Edgerton in the film, two Americans who fly in late in the game, and he’s got some pretty key moments involving the monster. We talked about how to sell the reality of something as outrageous as this.
I find him intriguing because of how he’s conventionally used in films and how much that goes against who he seems to be in real life. He speaks several languages, he’s well-traveled, and he seems like a guy who can hold forth on any number of subjects. On film, he’s frequently cast as “the scary guy,” which is a shame. It uses just one little part of who he is, and even in this brief conversation, it was obvious that he’s got more to offer.
When he first started appearing in films, he went by just his first name, Adewale, and if you see him in “Congo” or “Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls,” that’s how he’s billed. By the time he showed up in “Oz,” though, he was using his full name. I’ll admit that I did not have the nerve to attempt to say his name when we met, because I was afraid of mangling it. I love that he has stayed unapologetically true to who he is, though, and all I can hope is that more and more directors use him in films, in roles bigger than those in “The Mummy Returns” or “The Bourne Identity,” because I think there’s a lot we have yet to see from this performer, and it would be a shame if someone this talented is never fully utilized by the industry.
“The Thing” opens in theaters this Friday.