Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje in Pompeii

As film viewers, many times we see a familiar face, but don’t know the name. When you go back into their catalog, you find out they were in some of your favorite movies. Actor Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, a.k.a Tripple A (according to him), is the perfect example. He’s acted in movies and TV shows such as Redshoe Diaries, New York Undercover, Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, Oz, Get Rich Or Die Trying, Thor: The Dark World, and his newest film, Pompeii.

In Pompeii, he co-stars as the character Atticus, a badass warrior who becomes a slave and has to win one more fight to get his freedom and see his family. The city of Pompeii was the Las Vegas of it’s time, and Atticus was Mike Tyson of his era. If that’s not enough to peak your interest, it is based on a true story that involves Mount Vesuvius errupting while Atticus and Milo (played by Kit Harrington) have to fight to the death, even though they had recently became best friends.

We had a chance to speak to Adewale about the film, as well as his past role in the show New York Undercover, working with 50 Cent, and playing characters based on real life badass people (multiple times as well).

Pompeii opens in theaters February 21st.

You were on one of my favorite shows, New York Undercover.

Man, you taking me back now that was one of my first roles…

I don’t know if I saw the episode but what type of character did you play? Were you a bad guy?

You know what’s funny? I have a lawyer’s degree and one of my first roles was playing a lawyer. The episode was called “Downtown Girl,” and I was this Ivy League lawyer. I was considered to be a suspect, but it turns out I was a good guy. It was a great experience and I loved doing it.

They still play re-runs, so I get to watch it sometimes. A few years later, you were in 50 Cent’s movie, Get Rich Or Die Trying. What was it like doing that movie?

I was a huge fan of 50 before the movie, and then I met him and found out he was a really cool guy as well. It was great to be a part of a real story that unfolded his life. Plus, the fact I was working with director Jim Sheridan, who I was a big fan of as well. It was a great experience and a tough character to play as well, because I was at a great point in my life and I was playing such a dark character. I had to be in this space of this evil negative character for four months and it was tough. I think it’s a great movie that will stand the test of time, and you can pick up different things each time you watch it.

Some critics gave it a hard time, but I thought it was a good movie.

I think it was a little ahead of its time and a little more sophisticated then what people were expecting. I give credit to 50 and Jim Sheridan. It was a little different than the usual musician’s life story. We all tried to create a classic and I think time will show the quality of that. Each character has so many layers and each time you watch it, you see something different.

For those who many not know, your character was somewhat based on a real person. Supreme was a real enemy and threat to 50 Cent in his life and career. What was it like when the director says cut, and you just got done playing out an intense scene together, since most of the things in the movie aren’t completely true, but based on some truth?

Any time you are playing somebody who is alive or based on someone, for me it’s more fuel because it means I have to be as authentic as I can. It was loosely based around it and I tried to do the best job that I could with the facts that I knew.

You have a new movie called Pompeii, directed by Paul W.S. Anderson. I am a big fan of his movies. How did you get your role in this? Did you audition for Paul?

No, fortunately I didn’t have to audition. It was a case of me reading the script. I always have two questions when I read a script: Do I like the character and do I like the story? The story, Pompeii is a historical and phenomenal event, human disaster event. In the story, I play this heroic, iconic character who is the champion gladiator of Pompeii. From the beginning, they had a specific vision for the character — they wanted him to be a super hero in the arena. Pompeii was the Vegas of the day and the charterer Atticus was the Mike Tyson of his day.

You read the character and then do you base him on a real person? How do you do that?

The writers did such a good job. All I did was some research on that time period. I have to bring the script alive, but I also had to do a grueling workout to be in shape like a gladiator. The program was grueling because I had to get physically fit for the fight scenes. We trained for four weeks before the movie, and then after that, it’s just about finding your character’s arch. My character has to win one more fight to get his freedom back and try to get back to his family. The one man he has to fight is the other main character. These guys are housed in the same jail, but they have to fight to the death in the next few weeks.

It seems like you are the main guy in this film, which is great because you did such a good job in Thor 2 as a supporting role.

It is a very substantial role and a great role, and not only badass, but also showing other sides like compassion and humor.

Keefer Sutherland is in this as well, which just adds another big name actor you have worked with. Do you get to know them on the set over the course of making a movie?

They are just coworkers and it’s just another job. I worked with Robert De Niro in Killer Elite and Sylvester Stallone in Bullet To The Head. It’s all the same process and it’s a job. I know my process, which is nail my character, and then, I connect with their character during a scene. That is really how it happens, but all of the people I mentioned were very great guys off scene and that just helps as well.

Is this filmed on a real set or is it green screen?

This movie was all shot in Toronto and they built some fantastic sets. They went through meticulous detail to make it look like the real Pompeii. It was quite emotional when they tore down the set, because we lived there for four months. They built these massive sets that were real cities and it looks like a great movie. The difference between this and other gladiator movies is the natural disaster that happens that plays a character in the film. Mount Vesuvius, the volcano, plays a big role in the movie as the gladiators are fighting.

Do you have any plans to work with Paul W.S. Anderson in the future?

That’s the plan. Hopefully, because we were very happy with this movie. I would love to work with him again. I love his shooting and directing style, and we connected and created a great character. I think it is the beginning of a great relationship.