In my class right now, I have assigned my students to write an essay about a celebrity. Today I read a news story that made me think about the concept of celebrity in a new way.
According to the AP, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, who plays Mr. Eko on Lost, was asked to read the 23rd Psalm for the Hawaiian state senate.
Dressed in a simple gray suit draped with a single strand of maile leaves, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, a devout Buddhist, quietly delivered the traditional, daily prayer before the state Senate on Tuesday.
"I thank you very much, deeply, from the root of my heart because I believe this is what my mission is in life to share this practice and to create dialogue with others," Akinnuoye-Agbaje said....
Akinnuoye-Agbaje read the 23rd Psalm, which is also the title of the "Lost" episode during which Eko's violent past and struggle for redemption are revealed.
Akinnuoye-Agbaje was invited to deliver the invocation by Sen. Fred Hemmings, R-Lanikai-Waimanalo, after the senator saw the episode featuring Eko's story....
Akinnuoye-Agbaje called his appearance before the Hawaii Legislature "the pinnacle" of his career.
"This to me is the greatest reward because it's based upon my faith," he said in an interview following the invocation.
My first thought was that this was a pretty odd thing for the Senator to ask ... can't he tell the difference between teevee and reality? But then I had to confront the real reason why I found the story so weird, even disturbing: because I, too, have been impressed with the thespic skills of Akinnuoye-Agbaje, so much so that we never call him by his real name in our house, but rather refer to him as Adebisi, his character's name in Oz. We call him Adebisi rather than Mr. Eko when we watch Lost, and if we see him elsewhere, instead of saying "look, it's Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje" we say "hey, Adebisi!"
Oz was a brutal series that took place in a prison, and over the course of six seasons there were plenty of horrific acts, including many rapes. But one scene was more unforgettable, more revolting than any other, when Adebisi raped a fellow inmate. It wasn't just the act itself ... that was bad enough ... it was the way Akinnuoye-Agbaje paused before beginning to slip his headphones on that sears itself onto your brain. Something about that small gesture added a frightening touch to the scene, to the character, to the actor himself, so that to this day, more than seven years after the episode aired, I don't see Akinnuoye-Agbaje without thinking of those headphones.
Which means I can't exactly fault the senator from Hawaii for thinking Adebisi would make a good choice to read the 23rd Psalm.