Navy SEAL to Michael Bay actor–the transformation of Remi Adeleke
Birth sure is a lottery. It’s like a socioeconomic crapshoot, wherein one could be born a senator’s son, or on the other side of the spectrum, a fatherless son. For a child, there’s no way of knowing. It’s a cruel natal destiny to say the least. And yet there is seldom anything that can tangibly be done about it, save for drastically altering public policy and social culture so as to provide more equal opportunities–something that politicians and lawmakers aren’t exactly raring to go do, sadly. Whether it’s the incessant crime rates or the lack of economic opportunities, individuals born on the wrong side of the socioeconomic divide are often made to begin the rat race a few minutes–or in this case, more like a few years–after the more affluent and educated have. It’s a vicious cycle, one that pushes individuals down and ensures they stay down. Thankfully, it appears that Remi Adeleke broke out of that cycle.
Originally born in Nigeria to a hardworking engineer for a father and a loving mother, Adeleke seemed to have fit into the annals of the affluent and the privileged–he should have been one of the ones with a leg up. Sadly that did not come to be, due to his father’s untimely passing in 1987. With the corrupt military regime of Nigeria stripping his family of their fortune, the Adeleke’s were pushed into the other side of that cruel financial divide. With little prospects and opportunities in Nigeria, Adeleke’s mother moved with him and his brother to the Bronx. Within a few years, Adeleke began dabbling in thievery, drug dealing and scamming. It was a self-professed unsavory moment in Adeleke’s life, one that he reflects on in his interview with Marketwatch.com by saying, “I eventually came to the realization that I didn’t leave New York, I would either end up dead or in prison.”
Thankfully, Adeleke did find his way out of the bustling concrete jungle, enlisting in the Navy and eventually becoming a bonafide Navy SEAL. It was a tough undertaking, one that was inspired by Adeleke’s viewing of the Michael Bay classics, “Bad Boys” and “The Rock” back in the mid-90s. Whether it was the courageous commandos of “The Rock” or the positive portrayal of African American protagonists in “Bad Boys,” Adeleke slowly began realizing that there was more to life. It was here in the confines of a dark auditorium that Adeleke was first exposed to a world beyond his, and one that he earnestly aspired to replicate. With a Masters of Science and a tour of the Middle East under his belt, Adeleke soon entered the world of acting, starring in a few commercials and plays. Now, nearly twenty year after originally seeing Bay’s “The Rock,” Adeleke is working with the man who inspired him to change his life for the better. The Knockturnal had the opportunity to sit down with the tough man to talk about his time working with Bay, becoming a Navy SEAL and the transition from soldier to actor.
Working on Bay’s (Purportedly) Last ‘Transformers’ Film
Michael Bay is often known as the king of modern day action films. Whether it is the slow-mo action sequences or the larger-than-life narratives, Bay has a style that is nothing short of an auteur. His work is immediately recognizable and many others attempt to emulate it. It is a style that launched the multi-billion dollar “Transformers” franchise, incorporating Bay-centric violence, humor and wildly over-the-top special effects to make accessible for millions of individuals who never grew up with the Hasbro line of toys or television show.
Now with five “Transformers” films under his belt, it seems that Bay is finally moving on. Having worked on the series for a total of ten years, it’s only natural that Bay set his eyes on yet another vivaciously loud project. Asking about whether there was a sense of finality in the air during the shoots, Adeleke responded, “I didn’t know that this was going to be his last film during shooting. I felt like because of the reports I read where they were getting ready to set up a new universe, Bay would stay on. I knew there was going to be a Bumblebee spin-off–that’s going into production soon–and there might possibly be other spinoffs too. So because of all this news about spinoffs and new universes, I didn’t get the impression that this was going to be his last film.” Perhaps Adeleke is right and Bay will return to have one more shot at creating an explosion-filled, fast cut “Transformers” flick.
Adeleke–Always Ready To Come Back
Adeleke has had one hell of a ride thus far. From hustler to Navy SEAL, the military man-turned-actor has seen it all. With commercials, plays and now films coming in, it appears that Adeleke’s trajectory of fame is only growing. But seeing as his role in “Transformers: The Last Knight” grew from bit part to principal role in a film that is jam packed with Oscar winners, movie stars, and models, it appears that perhaps the series has more for Adeleke to do.
“Absolutely, if the opportunity is there, I’ll come back for a hundred ‘Transformers’ films [laughs]. If they call me up and said, ‘we want you in another one’ or ‘are you available?’ I’ll be on first plane going out to wherever I need to film.” And with no end in sight for the “Transformers” series, it seems that maybe Adeleke will have to begin saving up those frequent flyer miles for those shooting trips.
Finding Positive Role Models in Bay’s “Bad Boys” and “The Rock”
When one goes to go see an action film, most pay attention to the explosions, the fight sequences and the high octane narrative. It’s a cathartic experience, one that allows an individual to vicariously live through another, experiencing physiological responses much like the characters on the screen. But for Remi Adeleke, there was much more to it than that.
“The first film to inspire me was “Bad Boys” because it was the first film where I saw two African American men who looked like they had somewhat the same demeanor I had. And they weren’t playing thugs or gangsters or hustlers. Instead, they were playing heroes who were out there running and gunning to save the day.” The actor went on to explain that “when I saw that film, my mind kind of exploded and I realized there’s so much more out there. I don’t have to be a thug, I don’t have to be a hustler, I don’t have to be a drug dealer. I could that hero.” But Adeleke doesn’t attribute that to Bay alone. To him, his mother was a huge influence too.
“Growing up in the inner city in the Bronx, I don’t feel like I had a lot of positive role models. My mom was big into the arts. She would take us to Tribeca Film Festival and art galleries. And another thing she would do is take us to the movies. She loved movies and she still does. It was like somewhat of a way for us to escape the violence through film,” said Adeleke. It proved to be a formative experience, one that would inspire the thug-turned-Navy SEAL to try his hand at the very thing that inspired him to pursue acting.
“We don’t get recruiters that come to high schools, and show what Navy SEALs do like they do in the suburbs. We don’t get billboards or posters that expose us to that world. And I don’t why but that’s just how it is.” It’s a depressing revelation for someone like Adeleke who credits it for helping turn his life around. The actor explains that “when I went to go see “The Rock,” that was the first time I was really exposed to that military world. When I saw these guys in these wet suits coming out of the water, going into the island, sneaking around and to go save people, something kind of clicked. I said to myself, ‘if I was ever going to turn my life around–which at that point in time seemed far-fetched–I would do that. Now, I didn’t say it like I’m going to do that, but it was more like if I could, I would do that.” It appears that that far-fetched idea eventually actualized, wherein his former self would seldom recognize him today.
Catch “Transformers: The Last Knight” nationwide June 21.