EXCLUSIVE: Gbenga Akinnagbe Interview for THE GOOD WIFE & NURSE JACKIE

Gbenga Akinnagbe

Gbenga Akinnagbe was working for the federal government when he developed an interest in acting in his early twenties. After being cast in the Shakespearean Theatre Company in Washington, DC, he opted to leave his government job to pursue acting full time, and against all odds it ended up being a smart decision. Best known for playing street assassin Chris Partlow on HBO’s outstanding drama series, The Wire, he has also appeared in the films The Savages, The Taking of Pelham 123, and Lottery Ticket. He currently has a recurring role as Pastor Isaiah Easton on CBS’s THE GOOD WIFE and he will be joining Showtime’s NURSE JACKIE midway through its third season. Along with his acting, Gbenga has begun to pursue writing. He has had two articles published by the New York Times and he blogs about his life in New York, which includes very funny battles with brazen rodents, at GlobalGrind.com.

Daemon’s TV recently sat down with the busy and talented Gbenga, who talked about his current projects, how he’s avoided typecasting, and how he felt about The Wire‘s conclusion.

Gbenga returns to The Good Wife as Pastor Isaiah Tuesday November 17, so be sure to watch and look for him on Nurse Jackie next year. In the meantime, enjoy the interview.

I promise to ask only question about ‘The Wire’. Were you happy with how it ended?

Gbenga Akinnagbe: Was I happy with how it ended? Well, yes, I was glad that I wasn’t killed, but on the show no one was above a bullet. There was no one who was too much of a star that couldn’t be killed off which added to the equality of the show. As far as how it ended I think we could’ve used a couple of more episodes. I know that David Simon wanted a few more episodes and it was a struggle as far as budgeting and what the network had in mind. I would’ve been happy if it had a couple more episodes to develop story.

As much I love the show I felt that it was short changed in the end, that stories were rushed.

Gbenga Akinnagbe: Yeah, and they did the best that they could with what they had. It was great. It’s still one of the best pieces of television ever. It was amazing what they did with the fifth season.

Now, you’re back as Pastor Isaiah on ‘The Good Wife’ on Tuesday, right?

Gbenga Akinnagbe: Yes, I am.

What can you tease about your appearance? Is it Peter coming back to you for advice?

Gbenga Akinnagbe: I can say that much. Pastor Isaiah continues to advise Peter spiritually.

Do we get anymore interaction between Pastor Isaiah and Jackie?

Gbenga Akinnagbe: Everybody was really feeling that. Well, you have to wait and see because we’re still actually filming as the episodes are airing.

Do you know if you’re going to be in more episodes?

Gbenga Akinnagbe: Yes, I am.

Can you tease anything else beyond this single episode or do they make you shut up about it?

Gbenga Akinnagbe: Actually, I couldn’t because I haven’t read them yet.

What can you tell us about your role on ‘Nurse Jackie’? Details have been very sketchy so far.

Gbenga Akinnagbe: I’m really excited. It’s a very good nurse. It’s the first nurse who’s been on the show that as far as his nursing skills rival Jackie’s. So it promises for a lot of tension.

So will you be more of a help or a hindrance for Jackie?

Gbenga Akinnagbe: You’re going to have to see. You had to try though.

When in the season do you show up?

Gbenga Akinnagbe: In the middle of the season.

Do you know how many episodes you’ll be appearing in?

Gbenga Akinnagbe: I’ll be on for the rest of the season.

Lottery Ticket comes out on DVD Tuesday as well. What can people expect when they put that into their Netflix queue?

Gbenga Akinnagbe: The movie is funny. The movie is very, very funny and I’ve gotten that people were surprised because they expected a different thing, the typical kind of hood comedy. But this is actually a film with a story and genuine laughter and not clichéd laughter or cliché jokes. It was a lot of fun, great fun.

Your character was Lorenzo in that?

Gbenga Akinnagbe: Lorenzo, yeah, the antagonist.

What can you say about Lorenzo?

Gbenga Akinnagbe: He’s the antagonist. He’s basically going after Bow Wow the entire film to get the $370 million lottery ticket.

You seem to mix it up a lot with TV and film and theater. You did a one man play in Seattle. Do you have a preference?

Gbenga Akinnagbe: No. It really is just about the work, the project being worthy or not and fitting into the schedule. I dig all the mediums, television, film and theater for different reasons. In the end it’s about whether it’s a project worth doing.

What draws you to projects? Is it in the role or when the project touches you?

Gbenga Akinnagbe: Either. It varies. If the role is something that I haven’t done before that helps make it attractive. If it’s a type of film that I haven’t been in before that I think would advantageous to my career that helps make it attractive. If I get to work with actors or a director that I’ve respected or I respect that helps make it attractive. It’s a lot of different reasons.

One danger in Hollywood is being typecast. How have you managed to avoid that?

Gbenga Akinnagbe: It’s wild. I think that Hollywood actually respects me as an actor. I get called in for different things that you wouldn’t expect. I get called in for roles that are white roles for white boys and the industry I guess feels that I can do these things as well. So I’ve been pretty fortunate and I think what also helps are the choices that I make as far as the roles that I’m going to take. For example after ‘The Wire’ a lot of things came up that were kind of similar or variations or copies of ‘The Wire’ that people wanted me to do. I didn’t do a lot of those things, or in many cases, any of those things. The same with any one of these roles that I’ve done before. If you do a lot of the same ones then you’ve typecast yourself.

You mentioned being called in for ‘white boy’ roles. Do you think Hollywood is getting better at being more color blind?

Gbenga Akinnagbe: I think it is getting better. I think it’s not great at all. It’s still very hard to have a show that’s not about being Black with Black leads. It’s just difficult and it’s unfortunate because real life is like that. Black people are the heads of families, the heads of business, all kinds of things, but they won’t do a TV show like that for the most part if it’s not about being Black, the Black head of a family or the Black of the Black business. But things are getting better.

You’re actually doing a fair amount of writing, too. You’ve blogged on The Global Grind and you’ve written for ‘The New York Times’. Is this a hobby or something that you want to pursue professionally?

Gbenga Akinnagbe: That’s a good question.

Would you write your own screenplay or a book?

Gbenga Akinnagbe: In that case, yes. Those are all projects that I’ve already started and it’s because I’m passionate about it, it all seems like a hobby to me. Even acting which is what I do for a career, that seems like a hobby to me.

Has the rat to come back?

Gbenga Akinnagbe: Ha! I respect the fact that you’ve done your research. You’re going to have to wait for the third part. I know there’s going to be one more part but there may be two more parts and it’s only broken up in parts because I’ve been given a word limit. So I decided that I would make it a series. So it’s going to be one or two more parts and you’ll find out what happened to the rat and the squirrel.

Anyone who’s lived in a city knows that rodents do appear.

Gbenga Akinnagbe: Oh, my goodness and they do what they want to do.

What other projects do you have coming up?

Gbenga Akinnagbe: I’m working on ‘Nurse Jackie’ right now, filming that and that’s been a lot of fun. I love that show. It’s really good actors, really good crew. The producers and the writers have been great. I’m actually really fortunate to be a part of that show. And just writing, developing some of the things further that I’ve been interested in. It takes me longer than a lot of writers because I’m acting full time and I’m heavy in my work. I do it when I can and hopefully I can get it to a point where it’s finished.

Is there anything coming out soon that you’ve already shot?

Gbenga Akinnagbe: Not that I can remember. I forget some things sometimes. Tuesday is ‘The Good Wife’.

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