Gbenga Akinnagbe talks Damages, Nurse Jackie and upcoming film projects
Gbenga Akinagbe talks ‘Damages’ and his upcoming film projects
By Wilson Morales
September 29, 2012
Although HBO’s The Wire didn’t win any Emmys for Best Dramatic Series, for several actors, the reward is that it’s still unofficially recognized as one of the best series ever aired on television.
While guys like Dominic West (300), Idris Elba (Thor, Prometheus), and Michael K. Williams (Boardwalk Empire, 12 Years as a Slave) have received high profile projects and bigger exposure, there are others who have continued to work in the business, on the big and small screen, yet haven’t been given the higher exposure that will garner more attention for bigger projects.
One of those actors happens to be Gbenga Akinnagbe. Towards the end of The Wire series, Gbenga played the role of the murderous mobster Chris, who was always hanging with Snoop.
Since the series went off the air, the Detroit native has worked steadily, landing projects such as The Lottery Ticket opposite Ice Cube, and recurring role on ‘The Good Wife.’
More recently, Akinnagbe had a recurring role on Direct TV’s Damages opposite Glenn Close and Rose Byrne. He’s also on Showtime’s Nurse Jackie with Emmy winner Edie Falco.
Blackfilm.com recently caught up with Akinnagbe about his work and upcoming projects.
What’s your role on ‘Damages?’
Gbenga Akinnagbe: I had a recurring role. There was a character that was on the show last year and he and Rose Byrne’s character got close. He was a former Marine. The character is not on the show this year but sent my character to help and look out for her. I’m ex-special forces but now I do intel for Rose’s character.
Are you also back on Showtime’s ‘Nurse Jackie?’
GA: I don’t know. When you’re doing recurring work, they hit you up if you’re available. The way it was left last season, there’s a possibility that I may be back for the new season.
Does doing recurring work a positive thing? Is does offer one time to do other projects or would you rather a series regular?
GA: That’s a great question. It’s good and bad. You want a home. You want a place where you can say that this is your show that you invested in with other actors, but there’s also that flexibility of being a recurring actor. I’ve done that on a number of shows and that’s what ended up happening here by chance.
Can you talk about your upcoming projects like ‘Big Words?’
GA: ‘Big Words’ is cool. I play a former member of a rap group. Me, my cousin, who is played by Dorian Missick, and it’s a trio called Domino Poets. We were a 90s hip hop group when we were kids and right before our first album dropped, an incident happened that disbanded the band. The album had a lot of underground fans and it was really going to blow them up, so there’s a lot of resentment because they didn’t become the thing that they wanted to become. Ten years later and we’re all adults and it’s the day of the election of Obama. They are all trying to vote that day but it doesn’t necessarily happen as well as they think it should. They are going to see each other for the first time in years. It’s a really good script. Neil Drummond wrote and directed it.
So, the film is shot already?
GA: Yes. This past spring and summer, I think I shot, and not including the movie I produced, like four films, between LA and New York. That’s not including the thing I wrote and shot for Sony. I wrote an episode for a new web series for Sony and I happen to be it. We shot that in LA. It’s been a very productive two seasons.
What’s ‘Home’ and ‘Mall’ about?
GA: ‘Home’ may be the best part and best movie I’ve ever had. I loved it. It’s about a man who is suffering from schizophrenia and he’s in a home for people with psychotic problems. He has a job when he leaves the home. He’s trying to rebuild his life and re-establish a relationship with his son, who he can only see through supervised visits because of his many breakdowns. The script is beautifully written by Donald Oliver. I’m really excited about that. ‘Mall’ was also done this summer. That came out from nowhere. It’s with Gina Gershon, Vincent D’Onofrio, and James Frecheville, who’s this Australian actor who was in ‘Animal Kingdom.’ I would describe the film as a ‘Columbine’ meets ‘Kids.’ It’s pretty intense.
What’s the project you’re doing with Sony?
GA: It’s a series called ‘The Unknown.’ It’s amazing experience. The first season is six episodes. I wrote the second episode. I didn’t write it with me in mind, but I ended up in it. It’s doing very well. It’s like ‘Twilight Zone’ meets ‘Tales from the Crypt.’
How are you balancing being a writer and acting?
GA: It’s funny. I like writing and I enjoy it. It’s painful. You can’t get around the pain of writing. I’m still trying to balance on what I think is my creative habit. It varies, but I do know that I need to continue. It helps me with my acting, and the writing helps me be invested in a different way.
Looking back, what did ‘The Wire’ do for you?
GA: Personally, what the show did for me is limitless. I made so many friends and they will probably friends for the rest of my life. The creators of the show have been amazing to me. A couple of them are my writing mentors. As far as my career, it got the stamp of approval from the Hollywood elite. Although it never won or got nominated for a Best Series awards, the critics and writers knew the show and the actors on it, and they have immense respect for them. I did a movie called ‘The Savages’ with Laura Linney and Phillip Seymour Hoffman where I played a nurse; and it showed me in a different role from what I played on ‘The Wire.’ It showed my range as an actor.