O-T Fagbenle has been keeping busy the last 12 months, between the release of Marvel’s Black Widow, the return to production for The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5, and working on his own projects following the 2020 release of the original series Maxxx, which he wrote, directed, and starred in. Not only that, he’s also now in the Emmys this year conversation for two very different roles: The very strategic venture capitalist Cameron in WeCrashed and modern symbol of hope Barack Obama in The First Lady.
In the interview below, transcribed and edited for clarity, the actor and writer reveals why his career has included so many supporting roles of late, and what was key to playing arguably one of the most famous men on the planet. He also explains why he didn’t mind getting asked about Black Widow for the years leading up to the Marvel film’s release (even though there wasn’t too much he could say about it).
You’re back in Canada now to film The Handmaid’s Tale — at this point, does returning to the show feel like just getting back to the grind?
No, never. Never, being a part of The Handmaid’s Tale is such a lucky thing to happen to my life. I get to work with some of the best actors and actresses. The most amazing directors on the show, which is socially relevant and impactful and meaningful to people’s lives. And when you get to play a nuanced character like me, no I can’t take that for granted.
I was a big fan of Maxxx — is there talk of doing anymore for that?
Actually, right now I’m in talks to do another musical, probably. And so I’m kind of spring-boarding off of Maxx, which is available on Hulu, and I’m really excited about this project. I’ve been waiting to be able to announce it, but I haven’t been given the thumbs up yet.
Gotcha. So is it another lead role for you?
No, actually, to be honest. It was a bit distracting, actually [directing and also starring in Maxxx].
I ask, because you’ve got a lot going on right now, and an interesting thread throughout it is these are characters that are by and large in supporting roles. Is that something that just kind of happens, or is that something that you actually seek out?
Well, to be honest, how big the role is isn’t ever really the most important thing to me. I’m much more receptive to projects that I think have a meaning, projects which I get to work with people I’m inspired by and projects I get to play a character which I’m excited to play. Challenged to play. Or scared to play. And so, those are the main things that draw me in, rather than how many words I get to say.
Talk me through your work on WeCrashed — which emotion inspired you to sign up for that role?
I mean, I definitely think that that is a great example of what all three. It’s obviously a really interesting piece about business and corporations. And then there’s Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway who are right beside me, and that show has great writing in it. And then, the part, I’m really kind of interested in playing I guess some edgier characters. So, Maxxx is an example, but I kind of feel like Cameron, who I play in WeCrashed, is a branch off of that same tree.