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Millions of dollars, star actors, authentic looking set pieces – movie making is big business. A lot is riding on the silver screen machine. But already we’re seeing so many blockbusters tank miserably. It is more common than ever for our friends, audiences, and the opinionated Rotten Tomatoes crowd to shout out in dismay when a huge film flops despite the money invested to bring it to life. It is partly because the large-scale productions are reaching a kind of zenith in appeal and we live in an age where film has to compete with quality television productions the likes of Westworld and Stranger Things. However, this shift can be attributed to something else: the quality of actors. Judi Dench herself has lamented the lazy culture of actors who are not interested in their artistic development or the heritage their craft has been built on.

As Chris Rock once said: “I want a motherfucker to move me!” And he’s right. He touches on the simplest of things that seems to have disappeared in our mass-produced society: quality and a sense of realness.

It’s clear that movie goers have become more sophisticated; people care about the acting. You can dazzle with spectacle, sharpen the quality of the image with 70mm, IMAX, or 3D cameras, choreograph great action, but if you skimp on plot or acting, audiences are less likely to be forgiving. There’s a call for more genuineness and authenticity. As Chris Rock once said: “I want a motherfucker to move me!” And he’s right. He touches on the simplest of things that seems to have disappeared in our mass-produced society: quality and a sense of realness.

O.T. Fagbenle answers the call

An accomplished musician, stage performer, actor, writer, director and all-around man of culture, Fagbenle’s star is eons away from waning.

There is one rising star that is bringing that back into the spotlight. O.T. Fagbenle is an actor of British-Nigerian heritage who is surprisingly little well-known despite all of his accomplishments.

Fagbenle and the cast of 2016’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom are the recipients of a Laurence Oliver award, he won Best Actor for his performance in the stage version of Six Degrees of Separation, he won acclaimed parts in Death in Paradise, Miss Marple and Doctor Who, and was voted by Backstage Magazine as being one of 30 people to watch back in 2014. An accomplished musician, stage performer, actor, writer, director and all-around man of culture, Fagbenle’s star is eons away from waning.

Most recently he lent his talents to the adaption of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel, The Handmaiden’s Tale. The show is already getting rave reviews since it premiered on Hulu and O.T. Fagbenle plays Offred’s husband, Luke, mostly as a flashback character in the pre-Gilead days.

Connecting with the audience through Luke

Through his conflict of emotions, he captures those moments that convinced me that he has so much more to offer. It is that ability to personally connect with me as a viewer that leads me to believe he will go on to do even greater things.

In episode seven, ‘The Other Side’, of The Handmaiden’s Tale, viewers begin to learn more of his story and witness his talent as an actor. When he gets the call from a missing person’s office, he is both relieved and perplexed. When he arrives he’s led into a board room and after confirming his wife is June Osborne, the contact hands him an envelope. You can see and feel his fear. Perhaps this is news of her death? But when he learns it’s a 3 week old message from her, he realizes she could still alive. He understandably breaks down and this is where it hits for me as a viewer. This show may be some grim picture of a future dystopian-Orwellian state, but it reminds me of the very real tragedy between war and civil unrest that breaks up families.

My second cousin grew up under the oppressive eye of the DDR. With the creation of the Berlin wall, families that lived mere kilometers away were separated for decades. Lovers and families lost contact, but when the wall came down, it gave a chance for people to reunite. The feelings of joy and horror O.T. Fagbenle expresses shows a similar kind of distress where he hangs in suspense between knowing loved ones are alive and seeing them again. Through his conflict of emotions, he captures those moments that convinced me that he has so much more to offer. It is that ability to personally connect with me as a viewer that leads me to believe he will go on to do even greater things.

Watching him is a reminder that we need great actors to tear up our souls with good performances. His performance and the plot set up of The Handmaiden’s Tale also serves to highlight the real growing tensions in the Middle East and East Asia where tens of thousands have been displaced because of violence or political tensions. These actors are sending us messages through the vehicle of creativity. What they do and how they act are often a reflection of what we hold dear as a society. In this case it’s how do we live through our disconnection, pain, and loss?

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