TUD: You’re really known for your roles as a bad guy…
Don’t even try it! [laughs] When my boss asked me about doing this interview, I said, “Hold up, wait. You want me to interview Adebisi?!” The first time I ever saw you onscreen scarred me. It was the episode of “Oz” where you raped the white guy!
[laughs] You were traumatized! C’mon, you’re a big boy.
I was ten at the time! [laughs] But anyway, how do people treat you when they see you and all they remember is Adebisi?
It’s all love. I think when people call me Adebisi, it’s their affection and love for the character. If I say, “Hey, I’m Adewale not Adebisi.” you’re cutting off the love you receiving. Plus, the character’s name was born out of my name and a friend of [“Oz” creator] Tom Fontana’s who he went to school with. He went to school with a guy called Bisi and I’m Adewale. So we made the character Adebisi. So it’s apart of my name anyway. It’s not too far off. It’s all love.
Do people still recognize you from the En Vogue “Giving Him Something He Can Feel” video?
I don’t know. Do they? [laughs] You know what’s funny? I was doing an interview with Sway a couple of weeks back and he and I have been friends for 20 years. He was like, “Yeah, I remember you from Mary J. Blige!” [laughs] So people remember you for what they want to remember you for. Some people remember you from a video. Others remember you from Essence Magazine and some remember you for, like you said, Adebisi. As long as they remember you.
How I got into the industry is different. I was not a trained actor. I studied law. I came into the business through the back door. That back door was getting in front of any camera I could–whether it was a fashion photographer’s camera, a music video director’s camera and eventually a movie director’s camera. That’s the route I came in. Mary J. Blige is one of my favorite artists so I could never feel any sort of way about anybody remembering me from the “Love No Limit” video. It’s all love.
Speaking of having a master’s degree in law, do you go over contracts after your lawyer had gone over them to keep them in check?
Yup! I’m the biggest pain in their rear. They always say to me, “No other client asks this or asks that.” My response is, “Well, get other clients with a bachelor’s and a master’s in law.” I think my law degrees have helped me. It’s always a useful tool not just within specifically in law, but in my profession because when you train your brain for seven years, it’s like taking your brain to the gym. The analytical mindset, this focus and determination–I apply to reading a script or acting. I use all of the attributes I gained during my law career.
Getting back to the film, what do you want people to take away from “POMPEII” when they see it?
You’re going to have an incredible ride when you see this movie. The black audience-I think they’re going to be thrilled to finally get a character that represents us in a very heroic, iconic fashion because it’s been a long time since we’ve seen a character that had so much integrity onscreen. Certainly for me, I’ve been able to do it on the small screen with Adebisi and Mr. Ecko. I think Atticus is up there. It has every layer from compassion, spirituality, humor, and he is vicious. Atticus is Adebisi with an axe.
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