Travellers’ tales: O-T Fagbenle
The British-Nigerian star of Emmy Award-winning TV series The Handmaid’s Tale and centre of Marvel’s Black Widow geek rumour mills, O-T Fagbenle’s name is on everyone’s tongue. He sat down with High Life to talk Toronto, fetish fairs and how to turn work into play…
Where are you right now?
I’m in Cabbagetown, Atlanta, filming FLOTUS (a series about the First Lady of the USA). I’m playing Barack Obama.
What’s your favourite travel experience through work?
I’ve had many, but one that comes to mind is when I went to Guadeloupe for a TV show called Death in Paradise. Oftentimes you travel to places as an actor and it’s really hard work, but I arrived and was immediately told that my next task was to eat breakfast on the beach and then jump on a jet ski for the afternoon. Then I had the rest of the day off! That was a particularly fun trip as a couple of other actors and I got a car and circumnavigated the island. The people were so friendly and the food was so great. I loved it.
Where are you off to next?
I’ll be heading back to Toronto for season five of The Handmaid’s Tale. I’ve spent so much time there in the last four or five years because of that show, so it’s kind of a second home to me now. The Canadians are, generally speaking, a very conscientious people and the city is so multicultural. There’s a great infusion of food and culture. It’s amazing and I can’t wait to go back.
Do you ever turn work trips into holidays?
All the time. One of my first jobs was a four-day deal in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Everyone else flew in and out after the four days, but I landed there and came home two months later after backpacking around Jamaica and Cuba. I always try and carve out a bit of time for exploration in life.
What destination has surprised you most?
San Francisco was a really interesting experience. I did a show there called Looking and while I was there the Folsom Street Fair (a BDSM and leather subculture festival) was on. I’ve seen some crazy stuff over time – I’ve been to Notting Hill Carnival in London and New Orleans street parties – but I’ve never seen anything quite like the Folsom Street Fair. It was wild.
What’s your favourite meal and where does it taste the best?
I like eba or okra stew. In Lagos there are various bukas (local eateries), but my dad used to take me to a place called the Ikoyi Club, which has this pristine grass, swimming pools and gorgeous buildings where you can sit on the veranda and eat. It’s my favourite place to enjoy a good okra stew in Nigeria.
What do you love most about your home country and what do you miss about it?
I guess I’d say that home is where your mum is. She lives in Tanzania right now in a small town called Bagamoyo. Tanzania is such a gorgeous, safe country and the people are so friendly. The beaches are fantastic and the nature and wildlife there are some of the best in the world. Plus, the seafood is heavenly! Those are some of the things I love when I’m at home.
Do you have a favourite hotel?
Yes! The Firefly in Bagamoyo. It’s run by the most incredible woman who created this organisation: Bagamoyo Beach Lovers. They go to the beach, clean it up and reuse anything that’s recyclable. The Firefly itself has this incredible pool and most of the furniture is made from reclaimed pieces, giving it this old, rustic style. It’s amazing. Jo Turner who runs it there is one of the most incredible people I’ve met on my travels.
Have you ever experienced a moment of true inspiration on a trip?
So many. One time I climbed a couple of mountains in the Californian desert with a few friends. I was at a crossroads in my life and unsure what I wanted to do, so I gave myself this task to try and figure it out. I went on this big journey and, at the top of the mountain, I found the answer. I was so excited! When I got back down my friends asked, “What’s the answer? What did you want?” and I said, “I realised that I’m asking the wrong question. The real question is, ‘What do I want to give?’” If you centre yourself on that you have a better orientation to life and all the things you want will find their way to you. That was about eight years ago and a lot has changed in my life since I started to think that way.
What one place do you think everyone should see in their lifetime?
The Ngorongoro crater in Tanzania, where I went last New Year. Before I went there someone said to me, “It’s the eighth wonder of the world”, and I was dismissive, like, “Sure, all right, mate.” Then I went there and I’d never seen anything like it. it’s absolutely unbelievable. You’re watching this cacophony of wildlife, beavers dancing around, giraffes dancing around, hippos… It’s like The Lion King meets Jurassic Park. It’s unbelievable that something like that exists.
O-T Fagbenle stars in Marvel’s Black Widow, in cinemas and on Disney Plus from 9 July
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