Born in London to a Yoruba Nigerian journalist father and English mother, Olatunde Olateju Olaolorun Fagbenle, who goes by O-T, was raised in Spain where his love of music (particularly the alto saxophone) and theater had him moving back to the UK, playing such iconic arenas as Wembley Arena and the Royal Albert Hall.
In 2020, Fagbenle made history by becoming the first person to write, direct, compose, star in, and executive produce a series premiere on a major US network with the titular role of Hulu’s Maxxx. These days, you likely know him best from Marvel’s Black Widow, his Emmy-nominated turn in Hulu’s dystopian The Handmaid’s Tale, and in the latest real life scam artist series, AppleTV+’s WeCrashed, alongside Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway, as the seemingly only voice of reason in a circle of narcissists suffering from delusions of grandeur. As of this week, he’ll be playing his most beloved role to date as Barack Obama, opposite Viola Davis’ Michelle Obama in Showtime’s The First Lady.
Below, we speak to the man of many talents about the challenges of taking on one of the most recognizable people and voices of all time, working with Queen Viola, his love of basketball, getting into virtual reality, and what to expect from Luke in season five of The Handmaid’s Tale.
Where did you grow up?
I spent my childhood in London, Lagos and Sotogrande on the south coast of Spain. But it was the basketball court and the theatre where much of my growing took place ha.
Tell us about WeCrashed and what drew you to the project.
I STARRED in the comedy Maxxx on Hulu, and it gave me a taste for the anti-hero type character. It was so fun. So when I read the WeCrashed script I was immediately excited about what this part could be. That and working with talents like Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway of course!
Did you have to do any specific training for the role?
I did a fair amount of research into finance and did some back story work for my character. But once we got on set and began working with the script and JARED In particular, that was a training in itself. I loved it.
You are also playing Obama in the upcoming The First Lady. What was the biggest challenge of taking on such an iconic role?
Obama is so well known, one of the most recognizable people and voices of all time. So, there is a scrutiny over those aspects in a way there wouldn’t be for fictional characters. Finding a way to channel his specificities, while also having creative license, was a wonderful challenge.
What will you remember most or what stands out to you about playing Obama and working on the show?
Queen Viola – she is such a life force, talent and big heart. Watching her work and getting to know her was the most memorable part
What can you tell us about shooting the upcoming season of The Handmaid’s Tale that would surprise the show’s audience?
Luke changes in ways that are totally unexpected.
Did you shoot these three projects back to back?
There was a little bit of time between each project, so I had an opportunity to get back to writing and start developing some new shows as a writer, director and producer.
How did you find the transition going from one character to the next, seeing as they are vastly different roles and time periods?
I love it! Getting to do a diversity of roles and responsibilities is one of the things I’m most grateful for.
Do you have any hobbies to help keep you sane?
Basketball is a great LOVE of mine. I also like to play chess and have been really interested in virtual reality.
Who is your role model in your industry and why?
I’m really inspired by people like Jamie Foxx, Michaela Cole and Donald Glover. They are so multi-talented, and they perform at such a high level. It’s a wonder.
CHECK OUT O-T
As Cameron Lautner in Apple TV+ WeCrashed
As Barack Obama in Showtime’s The First Lady
As Mason in Marvel’s The Black Widow
As Luke Bankole in Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale
As Maxxx in Hulu’s Maxxx