O-T Fagbenle has a message to former president Barack Obama, whom he portrays in the upcoming Showtime series “First Lady,” set to premiere April 17: “Barack, call me.”
Fagbenle discussed his upcoming turn as the 44th president, alongside Viola Davis’ Michelle Obama, at the premiere of Apple TV Plus’s “WeCrashed” on Thursday at the Academy Museum. But did he try to contact President Obama to prepare for his role?
“I did try and get in contact with him, of course!,” Fagbenle said. “This is what happened: Viola knows Michelle, and Viola had been chatting to Michelle, so I was like, ‘Yo, ViVi, yo, help me out, bro, you got a hook up!’ So she put me in contact with the personal assistant of the president, and I’m like, I’m in. Yo, me and B are gonna play a bit of golf together.”
But once it came down to actually corresponding with the former president, Fagbenle’s excitement was slightly dimmed. He continued, “I said, ‘Look I’m filming in three months, can we chat?’ And I got a message back saying — lovely message — ‘Barack would love to, but he’s booked up.’ He’s booked up for three months? Just say you don’t wanna see me, bro. Just say you don’t want to see me.”
The Emmy-nominated British actor also spoke about embodying the president, whom Fagbenle said he “really, really studied” in order to play the very well-known figure.
“If you’re playing Lincoln, no one knows what Lincoln was like. But even if you’re playing Nixon, how many people can really recognize that Nixon hand movement?,” Fagbenle said. “But Barack Obama came alive during the social media movement, he’s one of the most recognizable people, so [the challenge was] finding a way of playing a character, discovering a character and not doing an imitation, but at the same time doing enough that people aren’t like, ‘Who the hell’s that guy playing?'”
He continued, “It was very hard… Playing him over the span of 15 years is a challenge, as well, but it was a beautiful challenge.”
Fagbenle wore prosthetics to capture Obama’s signature ears: “They gave me prosthetics that were his size, but they looked too big on my head so they actually had to give me smaller ears than he has to make it look realistic.”