Jovan Adepo is a British-born American film and TV actor of Nigerian and African-American descent. He is best known for his performance in the HBO series ‘The Leftovers’ and the Denzel Washington directed film ‘Fences.’ Born in Oxfordshire, England, he grew up in Waldorf, Maryland, and later obtained a Bachelor’s degree in political science from ‘Bowie State University.’ With an aim to become a writer, Adepo moved to Los Angeles, where he joined acting classes to procure work in commercials. He slowly became interested in acting and decided to take it up as his profession. A church-goer from back home Maryland introduced him to her sister, Viola Davis, who provided guidance as his mentor. His first major role was as ‘Michael Murphy’ in the HBO supernatural mystery drama series ‘The Leftovers.’ His debut film, ‘Fences,’ in which he portrayed ‘Cory Maxson,’ fetched him award nominations. Adepo has appeared in films ‘Mother!’ and ‘Overlord’ as well as TV series, including ‘Jack Ryan,’ ‘Sorry For Your Loss,’ and ‘When They See Us.’
Childhood & Early Life
Adepo was born Jovan Valde Olalekan Adepo on September 6, 1988, in Upper Heyford, Oxfordshire county of England. His father, James Melvin Bland, is an African-American from Chattanooga, Tennessee, while his mother, Adelola Omowunmi [Adepo], is of Nigerian ancestry and hails from London. His grandfather, Patrick Fatai Adepo, was special advisor to former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo. His surname, Adepo, comes from Nigerian Yoruba language.
Their family moved to Waldorf, Maryland, when Adepo was two. He has a younger sister, Macayla. During his growing years, he took part in the school and church plays. He played football while in the high school, but couldn’t play professional football in college.
Adepo studied at the ‘Bowie State University,’ Maryland, and earned a BA in political science and philosophy. With this degree, he aimed to enter journalism. In 2011, he moved to Los Angeles to become a writer. In order to earn a living, he decided to work in commercials and joined acting classes for that. Here, he developed an interest in acting and took it up as profession. He is very close to his parents, but he did face some friction, when, in spite of having a degree in political science, he decided to pursue arts.
In 2012, Adepo met a congregant in the church his family usually attended, who suggested that Adepo should meet her sister, actor Viola Davis. She introduced the two and soon Ms. Davis turned his mentor. She adviced him about how hard work was most essential, and also, how he should devout time to study and understand plays. Adepo joined Dianne Hull’s [Lee Strasberg’s student] method acting classes at‘Actors Studio.’
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Adepo’s very first acting assignment was from ‘Disney Channel,’ where he worked in ‘K.C. Undercover’ , with Zendaya Coleman. He got a major break in 2015 with a role of ‘Michael Murphy’ in HBO’s supernatural mystery drama series, ‘The Leftovers.’ He appeared in total 18 episodes from 2015 to 2017.
In 2016, Adepo appeared as ‘Emmanuel Salim’ in an episode of ‘NCIS: Los Angeles.’ The same year he received the significant role of his career, in his first film ‘Fences.’
While Adepo was working in ‘The Leftovers,’ Denzel Washington auditioned him for the role of ‘Cory Maxson,’ the troubled son of Washington’s character in the film ‘Fences.’ It is an adaptation of August Wilson’s Tony and Pulitzer Prize winning play of the same name. Of the entire of cast of the movie ‘Fences,’ Adepo was the only one who had not starred in the 2010 Broadway revival of the play before it was made into film. Though it was his very first movie and he was placed against star artists like Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, Adepo proved his merit through his performance.
For his work in ‘Fences,’ Adepo earned nominations for the ‘Black Reel Award’ for ‘Outstanding Breakthrough Performance’ and for ‘Outstanding Supporting Actor.’ He was also nominated for ‘Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.’
In 2017, he worked in his second film, the psychological horror movie, ‘Mother!’ by Darren Aronofsky. In 2018, Adepo played the lead role of ‘Private Edward Boyce’ in Julius Avery’s war horror film ‘Overlord,’ which was a commercial success Here his captivating performance as Louisiana’s mild-mannered paratrooper of 1940s won him accolades. In 2019, he also appeared in the action political thriller web television series ‘Jack Ryan’in the role of ‘Marcus.’ In that same year (2018), he played the role of ‘Danny Greer’ in the ‘Facebook Watch’ series ‘Sorry for Your Loss,’ that was premiered on September 18, 2018.
In 2019, Adepo essayed the role of ‘Antron McCray’ in the Netflix drama miniseries ‘When They See Us,’ which revolves around theCentral Park jogger case. His upcoming projects include drama film, ‘The Violent Heart,’ wherein he plays the lead role.