Lost's Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje

updated 05/01/2006 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/01/2006 AT 01:00 AM EDT

AGE: 38


LATEST GIG: Lost's resident strong, silent type, the enigmatic Mr. Eko

After having played tough talkers in the 50 Cent movie Get Rich or Die Tryin' and the HBO series OZ, Akinnuoye-Agbaje needed to adjust to the quiet role of Mr. Eko. "[Having so few lines] did get a little frustrating," says Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. "It was an exercise in trust in the writers that someday they will give you a word to say."

Before acting, he worked as a model in the '80s, even sharing a runway with Naomi Campbell. "You didn't make any money," he says. "But at the time I was happy just to get some new sneakers and a shirt." Things were so tough in the beginning that he slept in parks and once faked his way as an aerobics instructor at a gym. "I started making up my routine, and I look in the mirror and the people are all copying me," says Akinnuoye-Agbaje.

Most of his youth was spent in London, but when he was 8, he lived in his parents' native Nigeria. "In [the nation's] Yoruba language 'ade' is 'the crown' and 'wale' means 'to arrive,'" says Akinnuoye-Agbaje. "It's a hefty name to live up to. Sometimes I take the crown off and have my friends call me 'Wale.'"

"I hate signing autographs," he says. "I'd rather have a conversation." And what does the "single-ish" Akinnuoye-Agbaje think of his sex symbol status? "I love women, and if they love me, all the better," he says, laughing. "Just don't ask for an autograph!"

From Our Partners