When I first talked to Remi Adeleke, he was just days away from his first box office action film, Transformers: Last Knight. Having survived the Bronx as a young man, and the Navy Seals as a young adult, monstrous CGI robots were hardly enough to intimidate him. But to understand who Adeleke was, and to marvel at how far he’s come, consider his story as told through I am Second.
Catching up with Adeleke a month removed from his Transformers debut, the veteran and actor seems more at ease. He admits that the Michael Bay (whose film The Rock inspired his Navy Seals career) film has opened up doors that he never imagined, with two major film projects in development over the next year and a deal with CBS for some appearances. Even his first endorsement, Jockey, found that they received more than they bargained for as the ad has exceeded all expectations.
But Adeleke is quick to point out that this isn’t about him; it’s about the way God is using his story.
“God has developed my story, so the burden for who I become doesn’t fall on me. God allowed me to go through the things I did, like losing my father at a young age, to dealing drugs, to the Seals, to not knowing how we’d make ends meet, to use it all to bring glory to His name.”
While he now shares screen time with names like Mark Wahlberg and Anthony Hopkins, the Seal-turned-actor remembers when he was just a background filler – even in the first days of shooting on Last Knight. Watching his part gradually grow lends itself to his belief in always being prepared, and focusing on the basics, like “shoot, move, and communicate,” a lesson from his Seals days that applies to filming the story.
What stands out is Adeleke’s childhood memories of sitting in Michael Bay’s first film, Bad Boys, of realizing that Will Smith and Martin Lawrence were the first black actors he’d seen on the screen playing the good guys, not thugs or villains. And the desire to be like them some day. Now he can, even as he says that the tide is turning, as a focus on diversity in casting, or “reflecting the people of the world” grows in movies, from Black Panther to A Wrinkle in Time.
But the person Adeleke is exceeds one thing – he is Navy Seal veteran, model, actor, husband, father, Master’s graduate. And Christian. It’s that thing which comes up frequently, and flows seamlessly in his understanding of himself.
“You can tell people you’re a Christian all you want. But the first way you preach is in the way you live your life. You don’t have to preach, but your fruits show the kind of person you are.”
The young man from the Bronx is all grown up from those days wishing there’d be more African American leads, and wondering how things were going to work out. Now, he’s setting the standard, of culture, of acting, and of faith, one role, one step, one action at a time.