Childhood & Early Life
Gbenga Akinnagbe was born Olugbenga Enitan Temitope Akinnagbe, on December 12, 1978, in Washington, Columbia, United States of America. He was the second child and the eldest son of his parents. His parents were Nigerian immigrants who belonged to the Yoruba tribe. Gbenga grew up with an older sister and four younger brothers. His older sister was born in Nigeria, while Gbenga and his younger brothers were all born in the U.S.
Since his parents had moved from Nigeria, they did not have enough resources to take care of their children. Gbenga joined a local school after shifting to Maryland but did not settle there. He then attended quite a few local schools and spent most of his childhood in front of a TV set. Both his parents worked, and this left the children to fend for themselves.
By the time he reached high school, he had become a wrestling-loving teen. He joined the ‘Colonel Zadok A. Magruder High School,’ where he took up wrestling.
He was also interested in writing. Thus, following his high-school graduation, he decided to study English literature. He received a wrestling scholarship from ‘Bucknell University.’ In 2000, he graduated with a degree in English and political science.
Following his education, he began working for the ‘Corporation for National and Community Service.’ However, by then, he had developed a significant interest in the performing arts and also auditioned to act in plays. He was eventually selected by the ‘Shakespeare Theatre’ in Washington, D.C.
While working at the theater, he was invited to audition for a role in the then-upcoming ‘HBO’ series ‘The Wire.’ The audition went smooth, and Gbenga earned the role, thus making his acting debut.
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In 2004, Gbenga made his acting debut with the ‘HBO’ drama series ‘The Wire.’ The series featured him as ‘Chris Partlow,’ one of the leading men in a drug empire. ‘Chris’ was portrayed as a man who could commit murders ruthlessly but also took care of people under his command. Gbenga appeared in 28 episodes, from season 3 to 5.
‘The Wire’ happens to be one of the most successful series of the decade, and over time, it became a cult classic. All the actors of the series, including Gbenga, benefitted from their association with it.
In 2005, Gbenga appeared in the sitcom titled ‘Barbershop,’ which featured him as ‘Yinka,’ an immigrant from Nigeria. His was one of the leading roles in the series. The series was, however, rejected by both critics and audiences. It was canceled after 10 episodes, and Gbenga appeared in all of them.
The same year, Gbenga also made his film debut, appearing in the short film titled ‘They’re Made out of Meat.’ He then appeared in another short film, ‘Man-up,’ which released in 2007.
On TV, Gbenga was mostly seen playing guest roles in the late 2000s. He played ‘Ben Ellis’ in an episode of the series ‘Numb3rs,’ titled ‘Contendors.’ In addition, he was seen making guest appearances in series such as ‘Cold Case,’ ‘Fringe,’ and ‘Dark Blue.’
He made his feature-film debut in 2007, starring in the independent comedy–drama film titled ‘The Savages.’ The film featured him in the supporting role of ‘Jimmy’ and was a huge critical success. It also starred Philip Seymour Hoffman in the lead role.
Two years later, he appeared in the supporting role of ‘Wallace’ in the Tony Scott-directed film ‘The Taking of Pelham 123,’ which starred Denzel Washington in the lead role. It was a remake of the 1974 film of the same name and turned out to be a box-office success. However, the film received bad reviews and was considered weak in comparison with the original.
In the next few years, Gbenga was seen playing supporting roles in films such as ‘Edge of Darkness’ and ‘Lottery Ticket.’
In the early 2010s, his TV career flourished, as he was seen playing a supporting role in the legal drama series titled ‘The Good Wife.’ He appeared in seven episodes of the series, playing ‘Pastor Isaiah Easton.’
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In 2011, he appeared in yet another supporting role, in the medical comedy–drama series titled ‘Nurse Jackie.’ He played ‘Kelly Slater’ in eight episodes of the series.
He then appeared in small roles in series such as ‘A Gifted Man’ and ‘Damages.’ He then made a guest appearance in two episodes of the police-procedural drama series ‘Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.’
In the following few years, he was seen playing supporting roles in series such as ‘Graceland,’ ‘24: Live Another Day,’ and ‘The Following.’ In addition, he also appeared as ‘Quentin Walker’ in two episodes of the series ‘Limitless.’
He also appeared in many independent films, such as ‘Big Words’ and ‘Home,’ in the early 2010s.
In 2014, he appeared as one of the lead characters in the Nigerian crime thriller ‘Render to Caesar.’ The film received enough appreciation in its native country but turned out to be a box-office failure. The same year, he appeared in a supporting role in the American drama film titled ‘Mall,’ which received mixed reviews.
In 2015, he turned producer for the drama film titled ‘Knucklehead,’ in which he also played the main lead, ‘Langston.’ The film received decent reviews from critics but failed to become a commercial success.
In the more recent years, Gbenga has appeared in films such as ‘Independence Day: Resurgence,’ ‘Egg,’ and ‘The Sun Is Also a Star.’
In 2017, he was seen playing ‘Larry Brown,’ one of the lead roles in the drama series titled ‘The Deuce.’ He is all set to play the lead role in the upcoming series ‘The Old Man.’
He has been active in the theatrical circle, too, and has appeared in plays such as ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ ‘Lower Ninth,’ ‘The Rainmaker,’ and ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’