Classically trained in the UK, Hakeem soon came to prominence sharing the stage with acclaimed actors like Brian Cox in ‘King Lear’ and Sir Ian McKellan in “Richard III” for the Royal National Theatre. He made a successful transition to British television with leading roles in “Trial and Retribution”, “The Bill”, “Grange Hill”, “Ellington” and distinguished himself in the title role of ‘”Julius Caesar” for the BBC.
Hakeem then settled in South Africa where his work in film and television gave him a huge following and made him a household name. It was while in South Africa that Hakeem gained international attention for his role in the Oscar nominated, critically acclaimed “Hotel Rwanda” with Don Cheadle.
Since moving to Los Angeles with his wife and 2 children, Hakeem has shared his talent with millions of viewers on “Lost”, “Pirates of the Caribbean 3?, “Cane” with Jimmy Smits, “Law & Order: SVU” with Mariska Hargitay, “The Triangle” with Sam Neill and “The Librarian” with Gabrielle Anwar. Hakeem is often recognized for his recurring role as Dubaku on “24’s” Season 7, and in the pre-quel movie “Redemption”.
In the Blockbuster “Pirates of the Caribbean III” Hakeem played a pirate lord alongside such greats as Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley and Geoffrey Rush. Recently Hakeem filmed the motion picture “The 4th Kind” with Milla Jovovich, “Wolverine” with Hugh Jackman and DARFUR “Janjaweed” with Billy Zane.
Thank you HAKEEM for taking the time to respond to our interview questions.
AM: Please tell us about yourself
Hakeem: I was born in Lagos, Nigeria. I spent my early years there. Then my parents took me to England, in London, where I grew up. I went to school in London. After my education, I stayed in London for a few years then moved to South Africa. I was there for ten years. After that, I moved to the United States; it’s been nearly four years now.
AM: When you’re not working, what are your favorite things to do?
Hakeem: I love to go to the cinema and hang out with my family, especially my children.
AM: how many Children do you have?
Hakeem: I have two girls: Aisha (10), and Shada (6).
AM: Can you tell us something about you that people would never guess?
Hakeem: I delivered my youngest daughter at home on my own on the couch of our living room.
AM: What is your favorite sport/hobby? Why?
Hakeem: I’ve got a lot of favorite sports actually. My favorite hobby I guess would be going to the gym and doing Yoga. I really enjoy that.
AM: Tell us, how did you get started in acting?
Hakeem: I started acting in school plays. I progressed from there to do Youth Theatre. That’s where I discovered that I really had a love for theatre, for acting. Then after that, I went to study Drama in College. From there, I went straight into doing a lot of theatres in London. I went to the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) and the Royal National Theatre.
AM: Who has been your inspiration as far as acting is concerned?
Hakeem: As a young actor, I had no one really in particular. But later on, I started to follow actors that blazed the trail such as Sydney Poitier.
AM: What was the first acting role that you landed that made you feel like “Hey, I made it!”?
Hakeem: I guess when I did my first professional theatre gig, when I left school, coming out of Drama school. That’s when it hit me: this is real. I’m a professional and getting paid for it.
AM: Being an actor always has its ups and downs. Can you tell us about yours?
Hakeem: Yes, I think you’re right as far as the experience of being an actor having its ups and down. Some of the negative things of being an actor is that you never know sometimes when your next job is coming. So, financially it could be a little be of a strain. You have to make sure that you have enough money saved so that when you’re in between jobs you don’t run out of money and that sort of thing. Thi is where a lot of actors make a mistake, and then have to do a lot of things to sustain themselves, such as working in restaurant, hotels, etc... That’s when it gets difficult. Luckily, so far I have not yet to do something like that. But I still have to make sure that we save. There has been many times that we have been close to that, but something would just come in the neck of a time. That’s the negative side of acting.
I think the positive side of acting is that it’s such a fantastic career, you know. You’re doing something that people would critique and admire. It does not feel like work for me. I feel very lucky to do something that I really enjoy with a passion.
AM: Have you ever had to turn down a role in your career? If so, tell us why?
Hakeem: It’s been times where people had put a script to me that I have felt that it didn’t quite match with how I am and where I’m coming from. I had to turn them down.
AM: Which is harder: working on a movie or working on a TV series?
You know what? They both have different types of challenges. I don’t think one is more harder or easier than the other.
Complete Interview published in the Jan/Feb '10 Issue of ADUNAGOW Magazine