Gbenga Akinnagbe is no stranger to the hustle and flow of life. Experience has created a compassionate gem in the rough of superficiality and selfishness. Working hard as an Activist, Actor, and Entrepreneur in an age where compromise is accommodating,
Gbenga creatively and intentionally uses his platform for what matters.
How did wrestling lead to acting? What gave you the acting bug?
Wrestling kind of changed what I was doing in my life at the time.I began to get more engaged in school.Then because of wrestling, I ended up getting recruited to a wrestling college.College helped even more so as far as just opening up my options. I also started learning more about myself.I was a double major in English and Political Science. Then I graduated and worked for the federal government. When I did that, at that point, the world was just kind of open to me in a new way. When I started working for the federal government, I got curious about acting.I was kind of more self-aware at this moment, with a lot of confidence, you know, still from my success as a wrestler in college.So I thought that this would be something cool to learn about, not necessarily something to do, but something cool to learn about. So, yeah, it just led from one thing to another.
Do you feel stereotyped or pigeonholed in your roles?
No. I have been very fortunate.I’ve played priests, reverends, doctors, heart surgeon, bullies, assassins, mercenaries, and pimps. I’ve played a lot of different things…detectives…I’ve been pretty fortunate.
What prompted you to begin developing your own projects?
Um…I wanted to tell my own stories.I didn’t want to wait for studios to give me an opportunity to tell stories and I thought I could do it.
Yes, I’ve read that you have had some award-winning indie films out there.
Yeah…I’ve been fortunate. We’ve produced a few films.The Mall, one of them we sold at Sundance a few years ago.Knucklehead has won a number of awards.That was the first film I produced and that was with Alfre Woodard.I’ve been fortunate as far as the content that comes my way and then being able to pull together some media resources to tell the story.
So you enjoy writing?
We love the #OurSonTrayvon campaign with your brand, Liberated People. What caused you to act on something like this?
Well…Liberated People, the goal of the company is to be socially active and engaging company that addresses as much as possible with what’s going on in the world.The killing of Trayvon Martin was a big signifier that obviously those things have happened before, but there was a doubling down of black activism when he died.He was an innocent child and so it kind of reopened and made more people pay attention and he kind of became a symbol.His name became a metaphor for all these other black and brown lives, these boys and girls who are killed by the power of the State.
What would you like to see more of regarding the awareness and prevention of such tragedies like Trayvon?
Accountability. I would like to see more awareness as far as our rights as citizens to demand accountability, to make politicians pay for not being accountable, and making law enforcement accountable, for not making our laws accountable, you know.It’s the laws. It starts from the top down. I don’t waste time in getting mad at the police for coming into the neighborhoods because it’s the people who decided what they’re training the police to do and to think when they come into those neighborhoods. These things are set by the police commanders and police chiefs. The police chiefs are chosen by the mayors.They set how the police come into a neighborhood. They can come in to protect the people or they can come in to be enforcers. When you send police in and tell them, you make sure you get home tonight, it’s you over them, they come in with a war mentality so they find war.They don’t see people as citizens that they are supposed to be protecting.That includes the people that they arrest, even the people who are accused of committing crimes…it’s their sworn duty to protect them.So what would I like to see as far as awareness, I would like to see an engaged citizenry as far as our rights and our ability to hold political officials and high-ranking police officials accountable.
What would you suggest that we, as citizens, do to push this accountability along?
We should continue to march. We should continue to rally. The system we have is quite flawed as far as what we vote on and what we are allowed to vote for but we should still vote. We should be more engaged. We should educate ourselves on what our rights are and think about what we want our government to look like, what we want it to do for us, and do we interact with government.This country was built on a set of very racist and misogynist laws and everything that’s come from it as far as the laws of policing and judiciary for the most part have been bred from that same racism.For the type of change that we need, we need to come to terms of what that really looks like. Eliminating Columbus Day is a step in the right direction.Identifying sexual abuse and sexual harassment of women as an epidemic as far as the numbers go.We need to be real about these things.Only then do I think our citizenry can start to grasp it.This is something that involves everyone.
Where else can we find you? Are there any upcoming projects?
The Deuce just finished airing but that can still be caught on HBO On Demand.I have a film coming out in the spring called All the Devil’s Men, so you can check me out there.I have other projects that I can’t even think of right now but I’m sure there is something interesting coming. I don’t want to say that I work like a slave [laughs] but I work my ass off! I work like a slave!I also have a furniture line that you definitely need to check out.I think your readers may be interested. It’s called Enitan Vintage.I’m really excited about the line so check it out if you can.