“Will Smith is playing [Fresh Prince executive producer] Benni Medina. Benny Medina was adopted by a white American family. So as a kid, I grew up with a version of myself,” Akingbola tells RadioTimes.com.
“Will is playing me and I just didn’t know it. This is a cultural, iconic, global hit sitcom that’s still watched today – this is a nurturing story and now I’m playing Geoffrey in the drama version. You can’t make that up.”
While many common TV viewers will know the 44-year-old from ITV drama The Tower, superhero collection Arrow, BBC sitcom Rev and even his time in Holby City, few will know of his expertise in care. At the age of two, Akingbola was uprooted from his Nigerian household and adopted by a white British foster household, most of whom may be seen in his upcoming ITV documentary Handle with Care.
“This is probably the proudest thing I’ve ever done,” he tells me through Zoom from his residence in LA. It’s 2:30 am over there, however he is vigorous and talkative and eager to unfold the phrase about this deeply private venture.
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“When I looked at nursing stories that I had seen on TV, in films or documentaries – the way things were rolled out in the media, I always found that negative. It was always a bit of clickbait-y and mining trauma.
“It’s not like I had a squeaky clear upbringing the place nothing occurred to me. There are issues I’ve overcome, however total it has been a constructive expertise and I’ve met different individuals who have had constructive experiences.”
The loss of several family members during the pandemic prompted Akingbola to reflect on his own parenting and caregiving experience. The London-born actor decided it was time to “face his previous,” as he says in the documentary, and share his story.
“I wished to inform a story that celebrates and evokes and has a hero aspect – it could possibly be the mother and father who’re foster mother and father or the start mother and father who’re doing their finest, like my father. He’s not the unhealthy man. He’s nonetheless one of many heroes of the movie.”
When Akingbola was a toddler, his biological parents separated after his father suspected that his mother – who unknowingly suffered from schizophrenia – had been unfaithful and that Akingbola was not his biological son. Caring for her son became too much as she struggled with a mental illness, and in 1979 she handed him over to social services.
While the actor was loved by his adoptive parents, East London family The Crows, Akingbola admits filming the documentary evoked feelings of “disappointment and abandonment” as well as “pleasure, laughter and nice reminiscences.”
“I used to be just a bit boy who was all the time like, ‘Well, the place are my organic mom and organic father?’ and once you’re about six or seven, that is complicated, you realize? I did not need it to be like that after I say I used to be raised positively, did not must course of something, did not overcome trauma. Sure [I did]and that is why I say within the documentary, there’s all the time a little bit of trauma for everybody.”
In the film, we meet both Akingbola’s older biological siblings, who he reconnected with growing up, and his foster siblings – and while they were happy to take part in the documentary, he reveals his foster mother, Gloria, needed some convincing.
“I feel it was a mix of issues [like] ‘I do not need a digital camera on me’ and I mentioned, ‘It’s a love letter to you and dad and everybody’ and she mentioned, ‘I do know you’re keen on me, you do not have to. ‘”
Akingbola’s adoration for Gloria, who he hasn’t been able to see in several years due to work and the pandemic, is evident both via Zoom and in the documentary, especially as she refuses to acknowledge that her promotional efforts have been exceptional.
“In the documentary, she mentioned, ‘Ah, anybody would have completed it,’ and I mentioned, ‘No — not everybody does it. Not everybody does it such as you did,'” he says. “Over time, this led to discussions with my foster siblings, and they ended up speaking to my mother over a cup of tea, and I feel she realized, ‘Hey, that is an essential story to inform.’ It’s in regards to the common story of unconditional love and how a bit love can save a toddler and change a toddler’s life.”
While Handle with Care is still on the air, the actor reveals his performance has already inspired one family to consider adoption. “They wrote to me, ‘We have been very touched and considered it for a few years, however after seeing the documentary we stopped eager about it and we will certainly undertake a toddler throughout the subsequent 12 months.’
“I don’t know how many people are going to do this, but it was very nice to get that one message and it just reminded me that you never know how positively this is going to affect people.”
Akingbolas is not the one story instructed within the movie, Line of Duty’s Lennie James and Olympic athlete Kriss Akabusi additionally make appearances – nevertheless, each celebrities have had very completely different experiences with the grooming system, with Akabusi opening up in regards to the abuse he was subjected to had suffered the palms of varied foster mother and father.
“I just did DM [Kriss] on Instagram and he decided to share his story with me,” continues Akingbola. “And actually, what I’m going to say about Kriss’s — it was negative, but I had a conversation with him, I said, ‘Let’s turn this around.’ That’s why you hear him say that the children’s home was his salvation.
“In a means you could possibly say it is adverse, or you could possibly say it is constructive, that it saved him and you could possibly say his story is constructive as a result of he is the person he’s right this moment , he went all the way in which.”
There have been different celebrities that Akingbola wished to incorporate, from Lorraine Pascale to Seal, however with simply an hour, that wasn’t potential. “Maybe that will be for Netflix,” he smiles. “Plus, it made me take into consideration an American model as nicely.
“Tiffany Haddish has her own grooming story and I think of people like Sandra Bullock and Angelina Jolie, there are so many versions of that.”
Bringing Handle with Care to the US should not be too tough contemplating the actor already lives in LA the place he’s at present filming the second season of Bel-Air. On how working within the US differs from the UK, Akingbola says it is “a little more cutthroat” in America.
“I feel like when you have a little shaky day or week off, you can’t find yourself in a job unless you’re number one,” he says, earlier than including that he all the time does nonetheless cannot imagine he is working in Hollywood.
“I leave with joy in my heart,” he provides. “I’m working on the Universal lot, looking at the Jaws set and the Back to the Future car.”
However, he continues to return to the UK to movie The Tower, the ITV adaptation of Kate London’s metropolitan novels, by which he performs DC Steve Bradshaw. “The whole phone thing is still up in the air,” he teases. “It feels gritty and different. I look at it and I’m like, ‘This doesn’t feel like regular ITV drama.’
“What I really like about it’s that it is a female-led drama. Gemma Whelan and Tahirah Sharif are nice at it. Tamzin Outhwaite can even be there; she’s attractive.”
With The Tower, Handle with Care and its panel show Sorry I Didn’t Know all being ITV owners, Akingbola adds that he feels “embraced” by the channel.
“I spoke to Tamzin Outhwaite and she was like, ‘You’re an ITV expertise. I by no means obtained the golden handshake deal.’ At instances I believed Britain had a tough time nurturing and embracing expertise and it is very good that at this level in my profession I really feel like ITV is embracing me as a lot as my manufacturing firm.
“I just hope that increases across the board, that it’s not just a sense of injustice the production company or the Actor. I think there needs to be more diversity and inclusion across the board and funded by the company.”
Meanwhile, Akingbola is worked up to make an affect on the trade with Sorry I Didn’t Know, which options an all-black panel and fills “a very important gap” by Handle with Care.
“I’m both a storyteller and an actor, I produce and I’m an artist and I want to be able to look back and leave behind something that has impacted the world.”
Jimmy Akingbola Handle with Care airs on ITV Tuesday November 1 at 9pm. Watch extra of our documentaries or go to our TV information to see what’s on tonight.
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