Zeus is Black!
Hakeem Kae-Kazim is the go-to actor in the UK, Hollywood, and the entire African Continent for strong and commanding character. Nigerian by birth but trained in United Kingdom, Hakeem currently lives in South Africa and is in the middle of filming a television series entitled Troy, where he plays Zeus, the mighty Greek god. Looking at Hakeem’s three decade long resume, I guess I can’t really blame him for having done so many films, he can’t remember the total. And how many actors can say they have played the leader of all Greek gods on television, for Zeus’ sake?
I am fortunate to run into Hakeem every so often in Los Angeles. I offered to treat Hakeem to dinner on his next trip for giving me a few minutes of his time. So I’m sure he will be flying back to LA any day now. Back in the real world, I doubt my dinner offer will entice Hakeem to travel across the globe, leaving the bedside of his three beautiful daughters. For his 5, 14, and 17 year-old girls, whenever dad is home, it is like being on Mount Olympus.
If you have seen Hotel Rwanda or Pirates of the Caribbean, you would think that Hakeem goes around with a scowl on his face most of the time. But Hakeem’s real life persona is warm, inviting, and approachable. Hakeem tends to play these intense characters because he is just so darn good at it. His strategy for delivering top-notch performances is looking for the passion and validation within the role. It is an age-old acting technique to look for the good in a character, no matter how evil they are. “Everyone believes what they are doing is right and there is a certain commitment that goes along with this,” claims Hakeem. He adds that no one is truly evil. I joked with him that his portrayal of the Rwandian George Rutaganda was pretty heartless next to Don Cheadle (Hotel Rwanda). We laughed. Kind of.
I was surprised to see him in one of my all-time favorite franchise films, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, playing an African Businessman. For some reason, this role made me feel a bit more empathy for the character he played. Nevertheless, Hakeem’s ability to envelope the entire screen is a testament to what he can do and has been doing well for over 30 years in film and television.
As an entertainer, and a father of two daughters myself, I wondered how Hakeem juggles the world of acting while balancing fatherhood on his shoulders. Hakeem admits that it is a tough gig but he is fortunate to have a loving and supporting wife. On occasion, he has been able to move his children to his filming location in South Africa.
Hakeem is proud of his work in all of his films. Yet, he is still waiting for that film that will enlarge his acting territory exponentially. And we are waiting for Hakeem to play a role that is a little less intense. Maybe like a dad? Actually, that can be very intense. Never mind, Hakeem. Just keep doing what you do best.
Twitter @hakeemkaekazim, Instagram @Hakeemkaekazim
-by Julio Hanson