As a former professional heavyweight boxer Larry Olubamiwo knows a thing or two about knocking opponents out in the ring; but the successes he’s become widely recognized for in recent years have actually taken place outside of the boxing ring as Olubamiwo’s continued to show what he’s made of on the silver screen.
At 6-foot-4, Olubamiwo looks outwardly dominating, something that undoubtedly lent itself to his benefit in his boxing career and intimidated opponents before the first punch was even thrown. While that naturally strong aesthetic has also led him to be the first choice for a number of commanding lead roles as an actor, his collective work in film and television have revealed his capacity take on multi-layered roles that extend far beyond that of the stereotypical tough guy.
In projects such as Verona Rose’s 2016 dramatic film “Fabric of the Royals” where he stars alongside Alice Fofana from Benjamin Rider’s multi-award winning film “Seven Devils,” and the series “Life of Hers,” which won the Best Ensemble Award at the 2014 Screen Nation Awards, the emotional range and vulnerability that Olubamiwo brings to his characters draw us into the story making it hard to peel our eyes away.
Despite earning extensive praise for his on-screen roles, Olubamiwo remains admirably humble about his career and his talent, but knowing his strengths and capitalizing on them, as is the way for any actor who wishes to ‘make it’ in such a competitive industry, have been imperative to his success.
“My sensitivity and vulnerability as an actor despite my physicality sets me apart,” says Olubamiwo. “I have been told that I’m able to convey a range of emotions with just my eyes, which I am grateful for as acting, a lot of times, is about stillness.”
Though Olubamiwo had a passion for acting during his youth, at that time boxing was where his heart and mind were focused. He spent years undergoing the intense training required of a professional athlete, eventually going on to become a powerful heavyweight competitor in the ring. In 2012 his boxing career ended abruptly, which brought understandable challenges, but in a way came as a godsend as it opened the doors for Olubamiwo to devote himself fully to his work as an actor.
While he’d already played key roles in films such as Jim Dickinson’s comedy “Rough and Ready,” as well as several commercials including a BBC Sport promo for the Rugby World Cup where he played a featured rugby player, and the popular 2007 ‘Bungee’ commercial for the Electoral Commission in the UK, which continued to air during every election until 2013, Olubamiwo was finally in a position to fully immerse himself in his acting training and take his work to the next level. Bringing the same fervent dedication and focus that he gave to his work as a professional boxer, the actor quickly became a sought after force in the entertainment industry.
He explains, “My love for acting and my natural work ethic I have as a boxer allowed me to excel in the training. And while I was training, I was very proactive in searching for acting work and an agent. And the rest is history as they say.”
After landing representation with Imperium Management, Olubamiwo’s captivating talent immediately struck a chord with “Fabric of the Royals” director Verona Rose, who aside from her work as a director, is known for numerous performances on hit series such as the multi-award winning series “EastEnders,” the two-time Primetime Emmy nominated series “Hustle,” and most recently, the Golden Lion Award winning dramatic film “Our Little Haven.”
Rose says, “It was such a pleasure to work with Larry. I had seen his work previously and it’s amazing what range he has despite his size and skills as a fighter. He is able to show such emotion without even saying a word which is true acting. I learned alot from him on set and want to work with him again.”
Nominated for Best Film at the 2016 Screen Nation Digital-iS Media Awards, a prestigious awards ceremony in the UK that’s often referred to as the ‘black Bafta’s,’ “Fabric of the Royals” tells the powerful story of a family who leaves their home in Jamaica to start a new life in the UK in the 1980s. Taking on the starring role of Derek, the head of the family, Olubamiwo gives a captivating portrayal of a man struggling to assimilate to a new culture and rise above the racism and violence he experiences in his new country, in hopes of giving his children a better shot in life.
Told through the eyes of his youngest daughter, “Fabric of the Royals” offers an impactful insight into the many challenges minorities face upon emigrating to a new country.
Revealing Derek as both the strong backbone of the family who commands respect from his children and the fun-loving dad who makes everything alright when they experience truly horrific treatment from the outside world, Olubamiwo endows his character with multiple layers. His performance on screen not only makes his character easy to love and root for as the film unfolds, but it also serves as a testament to his impeccable acting ability.
While Olubamiwo nails the mark in the powerful father-figure roles he plays in both “Fabric of the Royals” and “Life of Hers,” not all of his characters are as easy to love, but they don’t have to be. In the 2016 dramatic horror film “Cat Face” he took on the starring role of Kaka, a priest with mystical powers that brings a murdered woman back to life and gives her the power to track down a violent cult of serial killers and take bloody revenge.
Olubamiwo sends chills down the spines of viewers with his performance, and “Cat Face” went on to be awarded at the Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards (AMVCA) in 2017. Revealing yet another area of the actor’s widespread skill set, Kaka speaks Yoruba in the film, a language Olubamiwo is not only fluent in, but one that makes the character that much more mysterious on screen thanks to the way the actor portrays him.
Larry Olubamiwo is one uniquely talented actor who embodies the beautiful contradiction of being the polar opposite of what outsiders tend to assume at first glance. And while his imposing figure has made it easy for him to play the intimidating, sometimes even criminal role, like Reynolds in the 2015 thriller “Honour Amongst,” it’s Olubamiwo’s incredible emotional depth, dedication and magnetism on screen that makes him someone worthy of the spotlight and international praise.
Up next for this talented actor is the dramatic crime film “The Middle Man,” which is written and directed by Philip Howard and is slated to begin filming late this year.