Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje has come a long way from Tilbury, Essex to Hollywood. To start with, he was born to Nigerian parents in London and second, he grew up with white adopted parents.
Now, in a new biopic film, Akinnuoye-Agbaje is telling the world about that time he joined a group of white skinheads who taught him to hate his black skin.
In Farming, Akinnuoye-Agbaje directs an uncompromisingly true story of how he was bullied to the point of convincing, that he was inferior.
As a result, he was encouraged to join the skinheads who were led by a white supremacist.
The 52-year-old actor, who wrote and directed the film, explains that the point of the film was to use his testimony as a reminder of the dangers white supremacy poses to all.
White supremacy and nationalism may seem like topics in vogue these days but Farming is also a realisation of a personal experience of alienation and neglect.
When he was born in 1967 in Islington to a Nigerian couple who were in the UK to study, Akinnuoye-Agbaje was given to white parents who were given money to look after him.
He was only six weeks old when he was handed to his white foster parents. The Sun reports that it was not uncommon for young Nigerian immigrants to pay for their children to be fostered in 1970s UK.
The toil parentage took on these immigrants, many of whom were students, forced them to hand over their babies for care from others. But Akinnuoye-Agbaje, as a teen, did not understand this.
He said in the interview with The Sun: “I felt my mum rejected me. But I was only six weeks old when I was passed on. As a child, those [white foster parents] were my parents. Where the rejection came was living in a house of eight to nine children, with rotating foster children.”
The actor struggled in his foster home. His foster mother, played in the film by Kate Beckinsale, once told him that he did not love him. It was all business for her.
But at 8, his parents came for him to Nigeria. Unfortunately, he could not adjust to the culture and was even ridiculed as a foreigner because he could not speak the local language.
Taking note of his unhappy time in the West African country, the actor’s parents sent him back to his foster parents in the UK. It was this return that marked the dramatic turn to self-hate and white supremacy.
The 70s and early 80s were a time in British politics where race relations came to the fore. The white nationalist National Front was gaining momentum too, and where Akinnuoye-Agbaje lived, the skinheads “ran the town”.
He could not beat them so he joined them.
“I wanted belonging in a town where I was told I didn’t belong. My father told me to stand up for myself. When I got proficient at that it got me a certain reputation,” explained the Suicide Squad star.
His knack for dealing with issues in a heavy-handed and aggressive way appealed to the white skinheads. They needed his brawn.
His parents learned of this violent turn in their teenage son’s life so they went for him from his foster parents. He had to go to school in Surrey where the actor recalls no one understood his Cockney accent.
The tumultuous time growing up affected him and Akinnuoye-Agbaje considered suicide.
“It was the depths of my despair. I tried to put a noose around me and it didn’t work,” said the actor. With the help of social workers, he managed to get back on track.
These days, apart from being a successful actor, Akinnuoye-Agbaje has two degrees, one, a master’s in law.