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Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje


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Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Oz) is set to join the cast of Lost for the series' second season. Lost will have its season premiere Wednesday, September 21 (9:00-10:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network, and will air Wednesdays at this time in the 2005-06 season.

Adewale will play Emeka, a mysterious man whose presence on the island - and intentions - will be revealed in one of the early episodes in the upcoming second season.

Born in London, England, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje split his time as a youth between the U.K. and Nigeria. After earning a Masters in Law from the University of London, a career in acting came his way when acclaimed director Frank Marshall cast him in Congo. This led to appearances in the films Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls and Legionnaire, the HBO movie Deadly Voyage, and television series Cracker and New York Undercover, as well as the miniseries 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Adewale's dramatic portrayal of the murderous drug addicted prisoner Adebisi in the series Oz earned him two NAACP Award nominations. He went on to star opposite Brendan Frasier in The Mummy Returns and with Matt Damon in The Bourne Identity. He recently wrapped production on the film Get Rich or Die Tryin', opposite Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, and completed work on the movie Mistress of Spices, a romantic comedy in which he stars opposite Aishwarya Rai.

Lost stars Naveen Andrews as Sayid, Emilie de Ravin as Claire, Matthew Fox as Jack, Jorge Garcia as Hurley, Maggie Grace as Shannon, Josh Holloway as Sawyer, Malcolm David Kelley as Walt, Daniel Dae Kim as Jin, Yunjin Kim as Sun, Evangeline Lilly as Kate, Dominic Monaghan as Charlie, Terry O'Quinn as Locke, Harold Perrineau as Michael and Michelle Rodriguez as Ana-Lucia.

J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof co-created Lost and also serve as executive producers, along with Carlton Cuse, Bryan Burk and Jack Bender. Lost, which is filmed entirely on location in Hawaii, is from Touchstone Television.

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60 SECONDS: Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje

Graeme Green - Wednesday, August 30, 2006

London-born Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje is the mysterious drug-dealing priest Mr Eko in TV series Lost. His breakthrough role came in prison drama Oz but he's also appeared in The Mummy Returns, The Bourne Identity and 50 Cent's film Get Rich Or Die Tryin'. He is a practising Buddhist.

Will Lost ever end?

I have no idea, to be honest. It depends how interested the fans are.

Will Lost ever end?

I have no idea, to be honest. It depends how interested the fans are.

Do the writers have any idea how it’s going to end?

Honestly, I don’t think so. You’d have to ask them but I think they’re just a few episodes ahead of the game and just let it roll from there.

So they’re blagging it?

I think so, yeah. I think they’re winging it, mate.

Is it odd, as an actor, not knowing what the story is about?

It depends what kind of actor you are. If you like to be in control and know the outcome, it can be frustrating. Initially, it was like that for me. If you trust the writers, it can be a really exhilarating experience. Hopefully, you get the good stuff but then maybe next week you’re dead.

Getting plane-wrecked? I’d love it. It’s one reason I took the job. Whether I’d survive is another thing.

Lost was a great idea for one or two series but the writers seem to be dragging it out. Do you think it’s losing its appeal?

Less is more. I started in the cult show Oz and I got off it because I felt enough was enough. The writers of Lost have different ideas and obviously they have arcs they want to complete. You should hit and run, then get on with something else.

Filming a hit TV show on a Hawaiian island sounds tough.

Ha! It is actually. You might think it’s easy but it’s hard work. I’m away from friends and family for nine months. But, honestly, who’s going to listen to me complain? There are lovely perks - you’re in paradise and you turn around after shooting and you can see a whale jump out at sea. But it’s quite a lonely job to do, all the way out there.

If you were plane-wrecked on an island, do you think you’d be able to survive?

I’d love it. It’s part of the reason I took the job. It’s that whole Marlon Brando thing in Apocalypse Now, isn’t it? Getting out there and doing it native style, man. Whether I’d survive or not is another thing but I’d have a good go.

Was there pressure to make your name more Westernised to fit into Hollywood?

I’m of Nigerian descent, from the Yoruba tribe. Names are very significant in that culture. It basically states your purpose in life. Ade is ‘the crown’, Wale means ‘to arrive’, so that means ‘the crown has arrived’. Akin is ‘warrior’ and Agbaje is ‘prosperity and wealth’. Every day when someone calls my name, they remind me of that purpose and for me to renounce that would be sacrilege. The name caused a lot of scrapes growing up. Having come this far, I wasn’t going to abandon it for Hollywood. People are getting used to it. They abbreviate it to triple A.

What was working with 50 Cent like?

He was just a businessman. We were all there to work and to tell his story. I got involved because I’m a big fan of the director Jim Sheridan. I wasn’t too enthusiastic about the storyline. You don’t get too many chances to work with great directors so, when it comes along, you’ve got to take it.

Does being a Buddhist fit with being an actor?

I got jaded with the profession about four or five years ago and was thinking about going into something else. It was only my faith that enabled me to continue. The main reason I took the role of Mr Eko was that I thought it would be interesting to play a role exploring another man’s faith and compare it to my own.

Are there many Buddhists in Hawaii?

Hawaii has one of the biggest Buddhist communities in the world. So that’s what’s made my experience there brilliant, linking to those communities. I’m a Buddhist of the Nichiren Daishonin temple in Maidenhead. It’s just a philosophy of life. Before any action, you pray on it. Buddhism is about winning and I think it goes very well with being an actor because this industry is very much about winning.

What’s Mr Eko’s story?

He’s an ex-drug lord who was always a priest but who had to turn to drug-dealing to save his brother’s life. His journey has been about reclaiming his soul and the island has given him a chance to redeem himself. I met someone in the bank the other day and he said: ‘You’re that criminal pretending to be a priest,’ and I said: ‘No, actually, I’m a priest pretending to be a criminal.’

Do you base the performance on any drug-dealing vicars you know?

Oh yeah, they’re everywhere... To be honest, when I came to play Eko, I’d just finished playing another drug-running king pin in the 50 Cent film, so I had plenty of resources to bring to it. It’s just acting and it’s juicy.

What did you do before acting?

Among many things, I did a bachelors and masters degree in criminal law. It’s a huge leap to acting. I’d only gone into acting while I was getting qualified, to figure out what I wanted to do. It was a convenient time-waster. I’d always had a creative propensity and it was just about finding the courage to go out and embrace it. The education, the discipline and the focus that I gained from studying had given me an advantage because, as you probably know, we artists tend not to be businesspeople. We get caught up in the creative side, so coming from that legal side gave me a very professional outlook and I think it helped me just forget about myself and look at it as a business. So, I just hustled and had objectives and focus points and got on with it. It was a graft.

Were you surprised by the success of Oz, particularly your character?

You never know where your big roles are going to come from. I’d done a number of films before then: Congo, Ace Ventura, and starred with Michael Caine in Legionnaire. The one that really resonated with the American public was Oz. It started with a two-liner guest role, which just developed into a legendary TV character. It was pure freedom playing a role like that, because there were no limits. When someone tells you you’re in prison for life, never getting out and you chopped off a policeman’s head, I mean you have licence to kill and do whatever it takes to survive. As an actor, that’s just brilliant. It was probably one of the best times of my career. Everything I’ve got since then has derived from that performance. Even the Lost creators were huge fans. In fact, Lost seems somewhat based on the structure of Oz: the flashbacks, the killing off of main characters. A lot of TV has taken from it.

What have you got planned for after Lost?

I’m making my directorial debut at the beginning of next year. I’ve just come back from Sundance where I met Robert Redford and Michelle Satter, and they’re backing my film. It’s going to be a black British feature film called Farming, based on my upbringing. I’ll be setting up the shoot for next year and it’ll be out sometime in 2008. There are a few other roles being talked about - big films, which is exciting. I’d really like to play myself as an Englishman. I’d also like a really big, fat, juicy lead character, whether it’s in an action film or a thriller. I’d like to get a big kahuna role now, you know what I mean? I’m ready for it.

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