'Handmaid's Tale' Star O-T Fagbenle on Luke, 'Black Widow' and Portraying Barack Obama (Exclusive)

The actor opens up to ET about season 4 of the Hulu series and branching out with roles in the Marvel film and new Showtime drama.

After first breaking out with HBO’s Looking, O-T Fagbenle has seen his star power rise thanks to his long-standing role as Luke on The Handmaid’s Tale and last year’s import, Maxxx. Now, things are about to get even bigger for the 40-year-old British actor, who will follow season 4 of the Emmy-winning series with the long-awaited debut of Black Widow and the upcoming, star-studded historical drama, The First Lady, in which he’s slated to portray Barack Obama opposite Viola Davis. 

When it comes to The Handmaid’s Tale, the new episodes promise to reward patience as the dystopian series tackles things that have been teased for the past three seasons. For Fagbenle, that means finally getting to shine as Luke as audiences see more of his life as the estranged husband of June (Elisabeth Moss), who has been fighting for her and their daughter Hannah’s freedom from Canada while also taking care of June’s daughter, Nichole, whom she had with Commander Nick Blaine (Max Minghella). 

“The central conflict for Luke is the lack of connection to his wife and child. And I think in season 4, we really get to see that tested in a completely new way,” Fagbenle tells ET, as Luke continues to create a hybrid family with Moira (Samira Wiley), who is helping him look after Nichole, and also extend help to the likes of Emily (Alexis Bledel) and Rita (Amanda Brugel), who was freed at the end of season 3 and now finds herself adjusting to life outside of Gilead. 

“You get to see new kinds of alliances, friendships, and foes. Characters you didn't expect to see together,” the actor adds.

And with season 4 teasing June’s eventual escape from Gilead, that hopefully means she’ll be reunited with Luke. But Fagbenle says “there are so many unknowns. And at the same time, I think as much as he wants to reconnect with June, he wants to get Hannah back.”

While what happens remains to be seen, the actor says season 4 is one of his favorites. But in between seasons, he was also able to explore characters outside of Luke, including the titular Maxxx, a washed-up boy band singer who attempts to return to stardom, and Rick Mason, an ally from Natasha Romanoff's (Scarlett Johansson) past in the latest installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Although plot details for Black Widow, which also stars Florence Pugh, David Harbour and Rachel Weisz, are being kept under wraps, Fagbenle says that director Cate Shortland “created a really fascinating exploration of family within the context of a Marvel movie.” He adds, “I’m really excited to see that my homie, Florence Pugh, smashes it. She’s so good… I’m excited to be part of it.”

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And then there’s the Showtime anthology series The First Lady, which will revisit key presidencies through the lens of the East Wing of the White House, with Davis as Michelle Obama, Michelle Pfeiffer as Betty Ford and Gillian Anderson as Eleanor Roosevelt. 

When offered the part of the 44th president, Fagbenle recalled asking himself, “Wow, could I play one of the most beloved characters of all time, who is super charming and intelligent?” He jokingly adds that there’s “no pressure” to play “a superhero amongst men.” 

With filming set to begin soon, the actor has been busy doing a lot of preparation for the role. “I read all of his books, I have read Michelle Obama's book, they are all great,” he says. “I have spoken to Viola. So, it is slowly coming together... and I am really up for the challenge and it is something I have not tried before.”

But no matter what, the actor says that his time away doesn’t diminish the appeal of the Hulu drama. “Luke and The Handmaid’s Tale is home for me,” Fagbenle says. “I’ve spent more years of my life on this project over the last 10 years than I have on any other.”

New episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale debut Wednesdays on Hulu.

--Additional reporting by Lauren Zima