ACTOR, MUSICIAN, WRITER, DIRECTOR AND CHARITY FOUNDER O-T FAGBENLE HAS KEPT BUSY THROUGH QUARANTINE.
Before you ask—no, O-T Fagbenle cannot tell you much about his character in Marvel’s Black Widow. Though fans might theorize that he’ll actually be revealed as the villain Taskmaster during the Scarlett Johansson stand-alone blockbuster, Fagbenle will confirm nothing of the sort.
According to Fagbenle, Mason is simply a fixer for Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff who has a soft spot for the dearly departed Avenger. “It’s a really interesting dynamic between them because it’s not all business. It’s not just Q from James Bond,” he says. “There is a personal connection there, but at the same time she’s a hard woman to know.” As for those rumors, fans will have to wait until the long-awaited film is released in theaters and on Disney+ Premier Access starting July 9.
Fagbenle has been working in theater and on-screen for more than 20 years, most recently as Luke Bankole in The Handmaid’s Tale—the long-suffering husband of Elisabeth Moss’ June, who has been fighting for his family’s safety after his wife and young daughter were captured and forced into servitude. In the fourth season, which premiered April 28, he and June reunite at last.
“It’s so emotional for him; it’s so challenging for him,” Fagbenle says of the long-awaited moment. “There’s so much hope and disappointment. It is a bit of a turning point for him as a character.”
Both Black Widow and season four of The Handmaid’s Tale were delayed because of the pandemic, but that doesn’t mean Fagbenle has stayed idle for the past year. Maxxx, the six-episode satire he created (and wrote and produced and directed and sang and starred in), debuted on Hulu in the U.S. and Channel 4 in the U.K. He spent lots of time with his family in Tanzania and was able to do on-the-ground work with his charity, the ABC Foundation, a self-funded organization dedicated to improving youth access to technology in Zimbabwe and fighting COVID-19 in rural Tanzania.
But he’s back to work in Hollywood now, playing Barack Obama (alongside Viola Davis’ Michelle) in Showtime’s star-powered limited series The First Lady. Calibrating how to play a historical figure is always hard, particularly a contemporary one, but Fagbenle sees it this way: “I could just go watch a documentary if I want to see Barack. But at the same time, if you take too much of a departure from a person, then people also may feel cheated. So it’s just trying to find this balance between doing a creative interpretation of a person and their journey, and luckily I’ve got the best scene partner to try and figure that out with.”