From Blockbusters to the prime time small screen,Hakeem Kae-Kazim has made his impact in the world of entertainment and has worked alongside many industry greats. This talented actor gained international notoriety for his wonderful portrayal of George Rutugunda in the Oscar-nominated film Hotel Rwanda, which led to leading roles in the TNT movie Librarian 2; opposite Noah Wyle, and The Triangle opposite Eric Stoltz and Sam Neill. Enjoying playing feisty and exciting characters,Hakeem’s list of impressive credits include Pirates of the Caribbean III, Lost, Cane with Jimmy Smits, Law & Order: SVU with Mariska Hargitay, The Triangle with Sam Neill, The Librarian with Gabrielle Anwar, X-Men Origins, Wolverine with Hugh Jackman, The 4th Kind alongside Milla Jovovich and Darfur with Billy Zane. His distinctive voice has also been shared in many popular video games including Halo, Call of Duty and The Bourne Conspiracy. Hakeem both produced and starred in Black November with Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger,as well as the award-winning film Man on Ground and Last Flight to Abuja. 

A-CHOICES: Hey! What’s up bro?

HAKEEM:I am good my brother what’s up?

A-CHOICES: I am very well, thanks. Please give a concise autobiography of yourself?

HAKEEM: Thank you very much for having me here. I was born in Lagos, Nigeria, where I spent my early years before my  family re-located to London, England. I trained at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre school, It is a drama school in Bristol, England that provides training in acting for film, television and theatre. My first professional engagement was at the Royal Shakespeare company my first TV was for the BBC and my first feature film I think was a film I did starring Naveem Andrews and Kim Cattrell. My interest in acting began with school plays and The National Youth Theatre, which is when I discovered that I  had  a love for theatre, and for acting.

A-CHOICES: How would you describe acting? What is the most memorable screen character you have played?

HAKEEM:Acting for me is a passion I love it! It is a wonderful art form that borders on the spiritual and the more I do the more I learn. The most memorable screen character for me to date I think is ‘George Ruttagunda’ from Hotel Rwanda.

A-CHOICES: How would you describe Black Sails and what attracted you to the character of Mr. Scott?

HAKEEM: Black Sails is all about pirates and it is set in the late17th/18th century and it’s all about pirates. Very real and based on historical pirates. Mr. Scott was a former slave who has somewhat risen in stature. Along with his former slave owner, they fence the goods from the pirates. I was attracted to him and I thought he would be interesting character to play. 

A-CHOICES: Can you talk about the research you did prior to taking on the role?

HAKEEM:Well,I did a lot of research actually. The research I did was to see what it was like to be an African during that period and what black pirates did. I found that forty to fifty percent of the pirates at that particular time were of African origin. Many of them were former slaves who escaped or were on ships that were raided by pirates. Obviously,they were all outcasts,so being a pirate, it didn’t matter what color you were. The most important thing was your ability,because everybody had to defend the ships in battle. The more able you were,the better position you had.

A-CHOICES: Who was your inspiration to go into the acting industry?

HAKEEM: That’s a very good question. I would say two people really got me started as an actor and by default had great influence in my decision to become one.. My old English teacher at my grammar school in the UK – Mr. Guy Williams. He was always so passionate in class reading the classics, whether it was Shakespeare or Dickens. It was enthralling for me to watch and listen and he cast me in my very first play at school. The second was a man named Michael Croft who started the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain. I would spend my summer holidays doing plays with other kids with different backgrounds and from around the country and with different backgrounds. He cast me as Othello and later I went on to play Henry V in the play of the same name, both of course by Shakespeare. He was a great encourager and had total belief in me as a talented young actor. I spent many hours with him in conversations about acting and becoming an actor. I am also inspired by the great Sidney Poitier who paved the way for many black actors in Hollywood.

A-CHOICES: Wow, that’s really amazing! Was there a moment you contemplated walking away from acting?

HAKEEM:It has never crossed my mind. I love what I am doing. I absolutely love my craft,you know what I mean?.

A-CHOICES: Tell me, how do you feel when you watch yourself on the big screen?

HAKEEM: Hmm...Many actors do not like to watch themselves on screen and I am certainly one of them. Psychologically I have to prepare myself before seeing myself on the big screen and I distance myself before watching.

A-CHOICES: What acting technique do you use, if you use any?

HAKEEM:I would say I am closer to being a method actor,but I don’t really consciously say this is the technique I am using!

A-CHOICES: What is your favourite stunt that you’ve performed and the stunt that you’ve been most nervous about?

HAKEEM: There was a stunt where I had to drive a car and do a rapid turn just before a car flips over, that was very exciting and nerve racking at the same time.

A-CHOICES: Do you get recognised much in public and what sort of reaction do you normally get from people, as someone who’s quite associated with playing ‘bad guys’?

HAKEEM:Well…I get recognised a fair amount and it’s nice to get told that people enjoy my work. They also can look at me and think “why don’t I like that guy?”, then they realise they have seen me in Hotel Rwanda or 24.Despite never feeling like I was actually in danger,I found it excruciating to deal with being harassed by photographers. 

A-CHOICES: You are often recognised for your recurring role as Colonel Dubaku, through which you wowed audiences with your stunning performance in 24’s’ Season 7,and in the prequel movie Redemption. Which role are you most commonly recognised from?

HAKEEM:It is a mixture,it depends what is current at the time or what they have seen. It can be 24,The Fourth Kind,Hotel Rwanda,Lost or whatever is on TV at the time.”

A-CHOICES: Let’s talk about SANTANA. It is a 2020 action film co-directed/Co-written by Chris Roland, Maradona Dias and Dos Santos. The film stars Paulo Americano, Terence Bridgett, Amanda and yourself, playing the character Obi.

HAKEEM:Santana is an action packed film, it is based on the story of two brothers— one a narcotics agent and the other a general in the army— who finally discover the identity of the drug lord who murdered their parents decades ago it was released onto the video streaming service on Friday 28 August and by Sunday 30 August had shot to the number one spot globally. I was really delighted by its success!That Santana shot to #1 in the world for six straight days was completely unexpected. Netflix did an amazing job with the marketing

A-CHOICES: What do you think audiences will get from watching it?

HAKEEM:Africans can be proud that it’s home-grown.

A-CHOICES: What’s it like working with the director and writer Chris Roland?

HAKEEM: It was  fun and exciting working with everyone on the set. It is great working on that project with Chris. Chris is a good friend, a very talented film director and remarkable writer. He is a consultant,who provides a wealth of experience that helps turn challenges into opportunities and ideas and dreams into realities.

A-CHOICES: What do you want from a director during a production?

HAKEEM: Depends on what sort of a director he/she is but for me I want a director that either leaves me alone as he trusts what I can bring or someone who understands actors and there process and knows how to communicate with them.

A-CHOICES: What do you like most about working on a television show? 

Hakeem Kae-Kazim: Filming of a TV series is a longer time period than film, so it enables the character to be taken on a longer journey and I enjoy the ongoing discovery of a character.

A-CHOICES: What’s a typical day like for you? You haven’t changed much still looking  like the guy I saw in Hotel Rwanda. You are still looking strong and healthy bro?

HAKEEM: There is no such thing as a typical day in my world, there are days when I am on set and get up at 4:00 am to film. Other days I get to spend with my lovely family. I exercise daily (mornings) and eat healthier. That’s my secret of good living.

A-CHOICES: How often do you visit Nigeria?

HAKEEM:I do visit frequently as much as time permits from my tight schedule.

A-CHOICES: What do you think it takes to get Hollywood, Bollywood to recruit Hollywood actors?

HAKEEM:I would say that improving the skills of Nollywood actors and productions.

Author: Gbenga Teejay Okunlola

London, UK