[This contains spoilers for Black Widow.]
During a solid year, part of the internet was convinced Black Widow actor OT Fagbenle played Taskmaster, the mysterious villain at the heart of the Marvel Studios movie. The myth has become so persistent that Fagbenle’s personal trainer even purchased a Taskmaster action figure for the actor to sign, despite Fagbenle’s protests.
Ultimately, Fagbenle was telling the truth when he told people he was playing Mason, a private entrepreneur with a romantic affair with Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson). This story was found in conversations with Johansson and director Cate Shortland, as well as in the editing process, which ultimately cut a more intimate moment than what made it into the movie.
After finishing filming in London, Fagbenle had another scene during additional photography and flew to Los Angeles from Toronto, where his Hulu series The Handmaid’s Tale cinema.
“Originally, I was not in this final scene,” says Fagbenle Hollywood journalist. âI was told in secret that the test audience liked to see me with the character of Natasha together. There are more important things than that that determine the decisions for Marvel, but that was part of the decision. we had that final scene, it was a huge compliment.
July has been a big month for Fagbenle, who not only made his Marvel debut but was also nominated for an Emmy for his work in The Handmaid’s Tale this week for his role as Luke. In a conversation with THR, the actor recounts how Mason evolved over the months he was involved in the film, and also plans to play Barack Obama in Showtime’s The first lady, facing Viola Davis.
You were writing your tv show Maxx during your vacation in Mexico when you had this audition. Was your hotel self-check-in a scene that ended up in the film?
Basically, he was a completely different character that I was up for. There were some moving parts in the script and people wanted it differently and so the writing Mason we meet is a completely different character than the one I auditioned for. I am so curious. If anyone had seen this audition before, they wouldn’t recognize it.
So there was enough there for them to say, “this is our guy.”
I have no idea what made me choose for this. But I am not going to look for a gift horse in the face.
What preparation are you doing? Do you have a story of what you and Natasha were doing? Cate give you some stuff? Does screenwriter Eric Pearson give you any tips?
I didn’t have all the information at the start. I finally got the script, then the script changes. So I do what I normally do, which is to create my own story. But also, I knew I was going to have to go. There was a day when Cate, Scarlett, and I sat around the table and just talked about it. âWhat was your idea? What do you think happened between them? Between the three of us, and obviously with Eric’s script, we understood what their story was.
There are some nods that they had a romance. And now they are “friends”. Did you have to play around with so many things to come up with what you wanted to suggest to the audience that they were more than friends?
Exactly that. But also the pleasure of the subtext. And knowing that Marvel audiences are sophisticated audiences and they’re going to be interested in things like that. They will look at every little detail. There was a scene [where Mason has been napping in Natashaâs bed]. This scene began with her coming in and lying next to me on the bed. Then we had a longer conversation on the bed where you learn even more about their relationship’s past. Some of that decision-making was also made in the edit. How much do we reveal about their past?
Has Mason always been British, or have you ever considered an American accent?
We talked about it. I like to play American, but it was fun to play British. One of the things about the show is that it has international voices. Russian accents and American accents, and of course, the English.
You were in LA for Black Widow reshoots just before the Oscars 2020. So you did most of your work in London, then flew away for a few days?
Exactly. It was to shoot this final scene. It was so awesome because originally I wasn’t in that final scene. So being told, “Look, you’re gonna be in it.” I was told in secret that the test audience liked to see me with the character of Natasha together. There are more important things than that that determine decisions for Marvel, but that was part of the decision. Then we had this final scene. It was a huge compliment.
Guess the Avengers jet isn’t here with you.
We have just been posted in the middle of a field. “Yes, the Avengers jet is going to be over there.”
You work with a lot of great people, but how special was a three-person scene with two Oscar nominees in Florence Pugh and Scarlett?
This is probably the best part of my job, working with some of the best artists in the world, the most amazing, experienced, detailed and passionate artists. It’s one of my favorite things.
“My Rainey’s Black Bottom” was a highlight of your career when you performed it in the West End. This piece is something you share with Chadwick Boseman, who starred in the Netflix adaptation. Have you ever met Chadwick at Comic-Con?
No I didn’t meet him there, but now I do First lady, in which Viola Davis is. Of course, Viola had the most extraordinary performance in Mom Rainey [opposite Boseman].
In the good old days, Marvel could say, “We might need you for other movies.” As the lines blur between film and streaming, the deal he now says, “We might need you for the streaming and oh too, we might need you for a movie” as the lines come together. scramble?
There has certainly been talk of Mason’s place and will it include television and will it include movies? It is a testament to how the industry has grown. I think that’s a good thing, to be honest.
You enter this realm where you could play Mason for ten years. Who knows with Marvel. Have you thought about this?
I love it, so I have no problem with it. We’ll see what happens. For now, I’m enjoying this moment and enjoying being a part of it, to learn what it’s like to be a part of the Marvel Universe. No more mason. I am here for this !
Before the movie came out, you told me there was a scene from screenwriter Eric Pearson saved on the fly. What scene was that?
I only watched the movie once and I was a bit confused. “I’m in the movie!” But basically it was during that last scene. There were only four lines of dialogue, but we had to get Natasha and I to the side of the road where she drops off her motorcycle in the middle of the field where she finds the plane. And so we didn’t have enough dialogue and we were trying to shoot, grabbing the falling wire. We had to find lines to fit this trip, so that’s the thing Eric came in and Supermanned himself was.
A lot of people online thought you were playing Taskmaster. Have you observed this?
I saw part of it. It was fun. Ultimately, part of the fun of waiting for something to come out is for your imagination to fill that void. I thought it was so exciting to see the fans. It’s the same with Servant, it’s the same for me when I wait for my series. “What happens?”
A friend of mine maintained that you were a Taskmaster for a solid year, and he convinced me too.
I had a personal trainer, a guy called Sergio, who helped me prepare for it. He was like, âYou are Taskmaster. âI’m not. I’m not Taskmaster. He was like, ‘I hear you. You’re the taskmaster. He got me to sign a Taskmaster doll.’ Fro, I’ll sign it, but I’m not not the Taskmaster. “
What is the process when you find out that you are in the final scene?
I remember filming the last day with Scarlett on the first block. She turned me around and said “see you later for the covers in January?” I was like, “What do you mean?” Obviously, she’s done it so many times that she knows that somehow there will be covers in a few months. I was prepared for it. Suddenly I get a call from my agent. “They are going to do a few covers.” And then trying to figure out flights from Toronto to LA and beard length and all that stuff.
Do they tell you the perfect beard length?
Yes, because Mason’s hair is shorter than Luke’s and when they’re both longer than Barack’s. So there is the age of the beard to be able to determine it. The subtleties of cinema.
What was the experience of playing Barack Obama in The first lady been like?
Really interesting because ultimately if people want to watch Barack, they’ll watch a documentary about him. I think the point of making a drama is to see the clay feet of our gods. It’s difficult. I have such playmates thatâ¦ I have the best time with them.