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Introducing Kingsley Ben-Adir – the breakout star of ‘The OA’ season 2

The up-and-coming Londoner on swapping NW1 for the brain-bending Netflix sci-fi

Phil de Semlyen
Written by
Phil de Semlyen

Who is he?
A 32-year-old from Kentish Town who’s landed a breakout role in season two of Netflix’s brilliant, brain-bending sci-fi ‘The OA’. ‘I’d never heard of it,’ he admits of his first audition for the show. ‘I binged it before I flew out to meet [“The OA” co-creators] Zal [Batmanglij] and Brit [Marling]. It’s got a lot of heart and soul, and it doesn’t spoonfeed 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 Bogart-like.’

How did he get into acting?
He caught the acting bug from a group of mates who were at drama school. ‘I’d meet them in the pub and they’d talk about what they’d been doing and it sounded fucking insane. I was like, this is a job?!’ He enrolled for drama school and went from there. ‘What would I be doing otherwise? Not a clue, though I wanted to be a karate teacher aged 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.’

Chatting to ‘If Beale Street Could Talk’s KiKi LayneBen-Adir as San Fran PI Karim Washington in ‘The OA’ season 2

Any near misses in his career so far?
‘I was going to play Mohammed 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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