Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje has built an acting career on creating memorable characters. One such example is Detective John Byrd as featured in the ABC mystery drama “Ten Days in the Valley” which returns from hiatus with two episodes Dec. 16 at 9 p.m.
“I always knew I wanted to go back to TV,” said the British actor who was featured in “Suicide Squad,” “Concussion,” “Annie” and “Thor: The Dark World.” “I was disheartened and disillusioned with a lot of the black roles that were being presented during the pilot season. Byrd was written as a white character, but I pushed my team to go after it. Eventually, I got a chemistry screen test with the lead actress, Kyra Sedgwick, and was hired.”
“It’s a great role because he has this cool way of seeking the truth and justice,” he said. “He’s not a cop that’s about being right. He’s a cop about finding out the truth.”
Researching Philadelphia cops for his starring role as an investigator in the 2017 independent film “Wetlands” prepared him to play Byrd.
“I got to watch busts and see it from the inside out,” Akinnuoye-Agbaje said. “I rode with cops that never washed. They constantly drank power drinks to keep them going. I was able to put all these little nuances in the character.”
He is most recognized for two monumental parts: convict Simon Adebisi on the HBO prison series “Oz,” and the mysterious Mr. Eko on the ABC’s “Lost.”
“Adebisi came at a time in my life that I was able to express a lot of my own angst and just immerse myself in it without fear,” he said of his breakout role. “That is one that people always gravitate to so I’ll be Adebisi until the day I die — which is cool with me.”
“Mr. Eko masqueraded as a holy priest and was a criminal killer but was probably more holy than any prayer man you’ve ever come upon because he was really truly at the core about justice and truth.”
Akinnuoye-Agbaje believes those characters resonated with people because they were not one dimensional.
“They’re not just bad people or good people,” he said. “They’re all of it. I think that’s what life is. Nobody is a hero 24/7. People mess up and people do good, too. Adebisi was a heinous criminal but he had a sense of humor so you just had to love the guy. When you can show humanity in people, they’re relatable.”
In its incubation period, Akinnuoye-Agbaje was attached to star as “Marvel’s The Black Panther.” When asked about the role, which went to Chadwick Boseman, he chuckled before saying: “Who knows what’s in people’s mind during casting? All I know is I am never going to allow my destiny to be dictated by an external which is why I started writing and directing my own films. Panther was something I grew up with and was fond of but there are so many opportunities out there.
“Not all of them can be given to me. Now I’m in the position to create for myself. And that’s where I’m actually more fulfilled than ever. To be honest, I landed on the right side of the track.”
Right indeed. His voice, along with Ben Kingsley, James McAvoy, John Boyega and Daniel Kaluuya, will be heard in a new animated version of the classic book, “Watership Down,” to premiere on Netflix in 2018.
Akinnuoye-Agbaje also has wrapped directing his autobiographical screenplay “Farming,” starring Kate Beckinsale, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Damson Idris (“Snowfall”) as a younger version of himself, raised by a white foster family and leading a racist skinhead gang.
He attributes his faith for much of his success: “Before I make any decision I chant,” he said. “What that does is it aligns you with your innate Buddhist spirit and with that of the universe. What I’m trying to say is I make decisions from my highest wisdom as opposed to my ego, rapture or any other lower life condition. It’s never really about money. It’s about my inner happiness and that’s the bottom line.”
CLIPPETTES: Jonathan Olshefski‘s “Quest,” the award-winning documentary chronicling nearly 10 years of a close knit African-American family living in North Philadelphia, begins its L.A. premiere run on Dec. 15 at Laemmle’s Monica Film Center …
Jenifer Lewis (“Black-ish”) will be signing copies of her new book “The Mother of Black Hollywood” on Dec. 16 at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center. Later, Cali Christmas with Chance the Rapper and Travis Scott is celebrated at the Forum …
The all-new “Dave Koz and Friends 20th anniversary Christmas” is now available with Jeffrey Osborne, Kenny Lattimore, David Benoit, Rick Braun, Peter White, Selina Albright, Javier Colon and Gabriel Orengo on board …
Some of today’s hottest rappers, including Future, Migos, Schoolboy Q, Gucci Mane, Lil Uzi Vert, Kodak Black, Playboi Carti, Lil Yachty, Rae Sremmurd, Post Malone, 21 Savage, Young Thug and many more are convening at Rolling Loud SoCal on Dec. 16-17 at NOS Event Center in San Bernardino. The festival is dedicated in memory of Lil Peep …
Gospel stars Jonathan McReynolds and Kierra Sheard lead the free Christmas at the West Angeles Cathedral program on Dec. 17; while the Blind Boys of Alabama Christmas Show with the Preservation Hall Legacy Horns and Ruthie Foster hits the Theatre at Ace Hotel …
The national tour of “Motown The Musical” starring Kenneth Mosley as Berry Gordy and Trenyce as Diana Ross returns to the Segerstrom Hall stage in Costa Mesa for one week only Dec. 19 – 24 …
Christmas Time Is Here with Dianne Reeves on Dec. 20 at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Also that evening, it’s Method Man and Redman at The Novo …
Jay-Z’s 4:44 Tour arrives at the Forum on Dec. 21; while Kirk Whalum presents the sixth annual A Gospel According to Jazz Christmas, featuring Jonathan Butler, Shelea and Kevin Whalum at West Angeles Church; and Musiq Soulchild, Keyshia Cole and Ro James bring Holiday Soul to the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario.
TC ON TV: Dec. 15 – “The 86th Annual Hollywood Christmas Parade” (CW): Dr. Oz serves as grand marshal with hosts Erik Estrada, Laura McKenzie, Dean Cain and Montel Williams calling the action. “Tavis Smiley” (PBS): Kenny Leon
Dec. 16 – “A Christmas Cruise” (Ion): Vivica A. Fox and Kristoff St. John are featured. “Saturday Night Live” (NBC): Kevin Hart, Foo Fighters.
Dec. 17 – “A Christmas Story” (Fox): This three-hour live television event, inspired by the holiday movie classic and its Tony Award-nominated Broadway adaptation, stars Maya Rudolph, Jane Krakowski, Ken Jeong, David Alan Grier and the voice of Matthew Broderick.
Dec. 18 – “The Hollywood Walk of Fame Honors 2017″ (CW): A look at celebrities honored with a star this year counting Adam Levine, Viola Davis, Ice Cube and others along with a brand-new star unveiling and tribute to popstar Selena.
TASTY QUIP: “We think of slavery as one singular moment when we see the antebellum encampments and plantations, but it was an expansion to that, which brought this country the first tool to the industrial revolution. That was cotton. This made this country, by 1840, the richest country economically in the world — which was clearly built on the backs of us.” – DANNY GLOVER at a benefit reception for the National African American Reparations Commission
As featured in the Los Angeles Wave and Independent, Tasty Clips is one of the leading entertainment newspaper columns on the West Coast, serving nearly one million weekly readers. To reach Bill Vaughan, send email to email@example.com or via Twitter @tastyclips.