We chat with Kingsley Ben-Adir from Netflix's The OA

Find out what makes him tick, his acting heroes and how close he came to being Muhammad Ali

We chat with Kingsley Ben-Adir from Netflix's The OA

If you haven’t seen Netflix’s mind-bending sci fi series The OA yet, what’s wrong with you? The mysterious smash hit has left
many people scratching their head, in a good way. But for those who don’t know what it’s all about here’s a quick (spoiler-free) explanation.

The show focuses on Prairie (Brit Marling), a young woman who comes back to her parents’ house seven years after disappearing. Spooky, right? If that wasn’t enough she was blind when she left home but can see upon her return. After a while she starts going by the name OA, but in case there’s anyone who hasn’t seen the first season, we’ll leave that there. That first run ended with a bit of a thinker of a final scene, meaning many fans aren’t sure what to expect from the second season.

What we do know is Londoner Kingsley Ben-Adir is one of the main players. So, without further ado, here he is. 

Who is he?
A 32-year-old from Kentish Town, north London, who’s landed a breakout role in season two of this brilliant Netflix series. “I’d never heard of it,” he admits of his first audition for the show. “I binged it before I flew out to meet [show co-creators] Zal [Batmanglij] and Brit. It’s got a lot of heart and soul, and it doesn’t spoon-feed you or drag you along.”

Who is he playing?
Ben-Adir plays San Francisco private investigator Karim Washington, who finds himself drawn into the show’s mysterious web. “I watched The Big Sleep and Zal sent me some French noirs,” he says of his prep. “Karim is kind of [Humphrey] Bogart-like.”

How did he get into acting?
He caught the bug from a group of mates who were at drama school. “I’d meet them on a night out and they’d talk about what they’d been doing and it sounded great. I was like, ‘This is a job?’.” Then he enrolled for drama school and it went from there. “What would I be doing otherwise? Not a clue, though I wanted to be a karate teacher when I was ten. I was obsessed with The Karate Kid.”

Where might you have seen him before?
The eagle-eyed may have spotted him in zombie movie World War Z. “I was due to rehearse with Brad Pitt but my part was cut at the last minute,” he says. “I was devastated, but I think the director heard about it because they gave me a few lines.”

Any near misses in his career so far?
“I was going to play Muhammad Ali in Ang Lee’s Ali film,” he says of the back-burnered boxing flick. “I spent three months training in the Philippines.”

Who are his acting heroes?
“I look up to Paddy Considine and Samantha Morton,” he says. “Jeffrey Wright is a big one. John Turturro, John C Reilly, Karl Malden. It’s hard to pin down a favourite. There are so many influences.”

‘The OA’ season two is streaming on Netflix now.

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