We recently interviewed Remi Adeleke the Nigerian-born actor and former U.S. Navy Seal who plays a Lieutenant in Transformers: The Last Knight. Listen to the audio interview and read the transcript below. (Also, for more information on Remi’s background, see the IAmSecond.org video at the end of this article.)
Derek Hoiem: You’re Nigerian?
Remi Adeleke: Yup, I’m Nigerian.
Derek: Are you Yoruba?
Remi: Yup, Yoruba, that’s my tribe.
Derek: I have some Nigerian friends and they’re like, o yea, that’s where he is from based on his name! When did you move to the US from Nigeria?
Remi: In 1987, that’s when we permanently relocated from Nigeria to the states.
Derek: You were a younger kid? Still in school kind of thing?
Remi: You know what, honestly, I don’t remember a lot of it because I was so young. I was 5. My dad passed away. I was, because I remember my mom telling me a story about me getting into a fight. My dad was kind of happy about the fact that I got into a fight. My mom was like ‘What are you talking about. Your son shouldn’t be fighting.’ Yea, I was probably in school at the time.
Derek: You didn’t have a present father. That’s a very common pattern among urban youth. How did that affect you growing up?
Remi: You know, I didn’t have a man to teach me how to treat a woman. Didn’t have a man to teach me how to do a lot of things. Tie a tie. Show respect for others. Teach me accountability as a man and as a leader of a home. So many things that I missed out on. To do this day, I’m still learning on my own. Because, I have to learn on my own. I’m a father now. I have two kids. Knowing how to be a father. How do you be a father to a kid? What does that mean. What does that look like. So yea, I missed out on all of that. But, as I grew in my faith in Christ, I’ve had to look to Christ and look to the word to teach me how to be a man. And look to the word to teach me how to be a father as well.
Derek: You joined the military. Was that like as you got out of school or had you been kind of doing life for a while?
Remi: Yea, I was out of high school for over a year. I graduated in the summer of 2000 and then two years later is when I joined. I was out on the streets between the time I graduated high school to the time I joined the military. I was out there hustling, selling drugs, running scams, you know, I was just out there, trying to hustle and make money. I didn’t want to go to college. My brother, he went to college, he actually got a full-ride scholarship to Syracuse. An academic scholarship. And my mom was trying to get me to go to the same university as him. But I had my agenda and school wasn’t a part of that agenda. So I ended up doing what I was doing. Then I found myself in a pretty bad situation. I had gotten involved in a deal that went bad. It was a huge wake-up call for me because that kind of scared me straight and kept me home for a while. Then I joined the military in June of 2002. Two years after I graduated high school.
Derek: Right, then you had to be kind of a serious dude to not only join the seals but to get in and stay there.
Remi: Absolutely, you got to have that mental toughness. You got to be focused. You got to have drive. There is a class I graduated that started with 270 and only 29 graduated. That’s the norm for every class. Every class is 250 or 270, guys will start but you only get 20 or 30 guys who will graduate. It’s just one of those programs, where if you don’t have what it takes or you’re not locked on, you’re not going to make it. Or even if you’re there for the wrong reasons, you’re not going to make it.
Derek: When did you start to realize that you needed faith in your life?
Remi: That was in I would say 2008. I hit rock bottom. That was my story. I was in Kodiak, Alaska. I was confronted with the person I had become. It was as if God was holding up a mirror and showing me what I had become and what I had done and how I treated people. I made a decision that I was going to change myself. I thought I’m going to change myself. I’m going to turn my life around. I’m going to make myself a better person. I don’t know how I’m going to do it but I’m going to do it. My girlfriend at the time, I had been like cheating on her, emotionally abusing her, just being a straight dirt bag towards her. One of the other decisions that I made was when I get back from Alaska, I’m going to be a good man to her. I’m going to marry her. I’m going to change my life because I realized what I had become. About two weeks after I had this epiphany and decided to change myself, about two weeks later, my girlfriend went to a party and she met this lady. She told her, ‘hey, you’re too beautiful and too smart to be with a guy like Remi. You need to leave him because if you don’t leave him you’re just going to endure a lot of pain. He is going to be gone all the time and he is going to be cheating on you and all this other stuff.’ For the first time in two years of our relationship, that girl finally got the strength to leave me. It was all God ordained. So when I was in Alaska, I called her up one day. I was like ‘Hey you won’t believe this. I came to the realization that I’m not a good dude. I need to change. I’ve changed and I’m working on myself. When I get back, I’ll be a better man to you. I want to marry you.’ I’m saying all this stuff to her not knowing she had just had this conversation with this lady. She was just like dead silent on the phone. I was just like ‘Well, what’s going on. Shouldn’t you be excited? Shouldn’t you be happy that I’ve changed?’ She was like ‘I don’t want to be with you anymore.’ I was already feeling low because I was trying to change myself and It wasn’t working. But when that happened, after I had made the decision to change before she decided to leave me. In my mind, that brought me down even lower. I started fighting harder to change myself. The more I tried the worst I got. That was my bottom. Then, my brother he was a Christian. He knew the Lord for a long time. I would say, college is when he surrounded his life to Christ. He would always pray for me and talk to me about Jesus and plant seeds. When I hit that bottom and I tried everything else that didn’t work, I said ‘I need to try this Jesus that my brother keeps telling me about.’ I did and that was how I turned to the Lord.
Derek: You’ve been a Christian for awhile. Praise God for that. What advice would you have for your younger self?
Remi: Honestly, I get questions like this all the time and I would say, no advice. I would not want to give my younger self no advice. Two potential reasons. One, my younger self probably wouldn’t listen anyways. My second reason, is because everything I went through, whether good or bad, taught me valuable and priceless lessons. It has helped me to be the man I am today. So, honestly if I had the chance to go back in time and talk to myself I wouldn’t say nothing. I would just allow my life to play out so that I could gain those lessons and make those mistakes and end up being where I am today.
Derek: Let God be God and do HIS thing.
Derek: So Obviously, you talk about this in your I AM SECOND video. God brought Michael Bay into your life. He has now been an instrumental tool that God has used. That is just amazing. You see the finger print of God when it’s so pointed. You had the appointment to meet him or to at least be in contact with him. So what is he like?
Remi: He is a great dude man. He is super funny. He is focused. When he wants something done he is laser focused on it. When he wants something done a certain way it has to be done that way. He works hard. He is great to work with. He is a great director to work with. It’s my first film so I don’t have other directors to compare to from a film perspective but just all around a fantastic director.
Derek: We’ll slip into movie mode here. So tell us a little bit about your character in the movie.
Remi: So essentially I play a guy who goes after autobots and decepticons. I work for an organization called TRF (Transformers Reaction Force) and our job is to hunt down all autobots and decepticons. Destroy them and get them off of the planet. Through the film I come to the realization that the autobots are good so I end up joining Mark Wahlberg’s character and Laura Haddock and Josh Duhamel’s character to save the world.
Derek: That’s fun. You said this had started as just like a bit part but then you became a principal player.
Remi: I started as an extra one day. Then one day turned into three weeks. And three weeks turned into six months. I was on the film until December of last year filming.
Derek: Did they rewrite the script for you? Or did they already have this character and they didn’t have anyone playing it? How did that happen?
Remi: Bay kind of wrote me into the script (laughing)! It was one of those things where he would just give me the lines. My character from my understanding wasn’t in the script.
Derek: Wow, huge compliment! Just a couple of personal items. Do you listen to any Christian urban music like hip-hop and r&b?
Remi: Definitely, that’s pretty much all I listen to. Christian rap for the most part.
Derek Hoiem: Who are your favorite artists?
Remi: I like S.O. a lot, he is probably one of my favorites. Just got that new Andy Mineo and Wordsplayed album, which I think is pretty good. I love Jackie Hill. She is amazing man. I listen to anytime she comes out with anything. Joey Jewish is pretty cool. Steven Malcolm, I got his last album, I like that a bit. I listen to some Thi’sl. A little bit of everybody. But I would say my favorites are S.O. and Jackie Hill.
Derek: Well, you’re pretty dialed in because most people can’t name anybody besides Lecrae and Andy Mineo. So you get a ten on your knowledge test there.
Remi: Thanks man. That’s all I listen to. I listen to Christian hip-hop and you know worship music. That’s pretty much it.
Derek: Any fashion tips for us urbanites out there. Favorite sneakers, clothing brands, or stuff that you like to wear?
Remi: I’m not a big fashion guy. I don’t wear sneakers for fashion, I wear them for comfort. Especially being older now and having a lot of injuries. I could care less about fashion when it comes to sneakers. I wear Nike Odysseys. Sneakers with a lot of support for your ankles, knees, and all that kind of stuff. Suits. I would say don’t wear a suit unless it’s tailored. That’s what I tell people all the time. I will not put on a suit if it’s not tailored fit. That’s the advice I would give every guy, never wear a suit unless it’s tailored to fit you.
Derek: Right, that’s great advice for every man out there! Thanks so much for appearing on Jam The Hype. We would love to have you out at our film festival. We look forward to more stuff that you will be doing so we would love to stay posted.
Remi: Most definitely. Appreciate you. Hit me up when that conference goes down. I’m trying to be there for it.
Derek: Ok, thanks so much!
Remi: Thank you. God bless and much love brother!