‘The Power’s Toheeb Jimoh on its Socially Relevant Story and ‘Ted Lasso’

From Raelle Tucker, the Amazon Studios original series The Power uses the sci-fi/fantasy genre to explore what would happen if women were to suddenly develop the mysterious ability to electrocute at will. Naturally, the global reversal of the power balance this causes leads some to feel threatened and see it as a danger that needs to be controlled and punished, instead of as the gift it could be.

During this 1-on-1 interview with Crumpa, Toheeb Jimoh (who plays Tunde Ojo, a Nigerian aspiring video journalist that finds the spotlight turned on him when he films the first footage of a woman with the power) talked about how lucky he feels to be on two awesome shows with The Power and Ted Lasso, enjoying a balance of comedy and drama, how important it is to set the mood on set from the top down, what he learned from playing this complex and diverse character, and what people could take from a story like this.


Crumpa: How did you get involved with this? Did you just think to yourself, “Okay, one hit show is just not enough for me. I need to find a second show to do, at the same time”? How did that happen?

TOHEEB JIMOH: Yeah, I thought, “What’s better than one hit show in a comedy space? How about another really dope show in the drama space?” And then, I whisked it all together in my little magic gumbo soup of universe juice and prayer, and all of that stuff. To be honest, I count myself as incredibly lucky. To have the opportunity to do not just one show in the comedy space, but another show in the political thriller/drama/sci-fi space is super awesome. I’m still pinching myself.

Image via Prime Video

Did you have any idea that The Power would be coming out, essentially at the same time as Season 3 of Ted Lasso?

JIMOH: No, I didn’t have any idea about the timing. The funny story is that I actually got the job for The Power a long time ago, and then because of COVID and a million other things, our release was delayed. So, these two shows coming out, at the same time, with one potentially being the final season and the other being the first season is insanely lucky. I’m just counting my blessings, at the moment.

The story of The Power is quite serious and dramatic. Although I’ve both laughed and cried watching Ted Lasso, that show definitely leans more toward comedy, most of the time. Now that you’ve had some experience in both comedy and drama, are you finding yourself drawn more to one than the other, or do you like these projects that have a balance of the two, within one story?

JIMOH: I think it’s the latter, having a balance of the two in their stories. On paper, Ted Lasso is a comedy, but somebody could watch it and very much be like, “It’s not a comedy,” because they cried their way through it. It’s the same thing for The Power. It’s really entertaining, and there are some really funny moments in it, as well. Comedy is a really dope way to Trojan horse in some of these really important, cool storylines. I’ve done that for the last three years with Ted Lasso. And I think the inverse is possible with The Power, to have a show that’s really deeply rooted in our world and in politics and in power dynamics, especially between the genders, but to also have it be really light and entertaining and have some really dope sci-fi sequences in it. They both can live together, and in my dream world, I’d get to bounce between shows of all different genres.

Another thing that the two shows have in common is that they are ensemble casts, where all the actors seem to be able to find space for their characters and the story that’s being told. As an actor, what’s the key to joining a project where you likely all walk in as strangers, and then quickly have to find your place amongst everyone and figure out what you can bring to that? And what is it like to then also give your scene partner room to find their space, in any given moment?

JIMOH: Yeah. That’s a really interesting question. Actually, I don’t know that I’ve thought too deeply about it, but the first thing that comes to mind is that it starts from the top down. On Ted Lasso, it was impossible for anybody to take up too much space or to try to squash anybody else’s space, partly because of the subject matter of the show, but also because of who our leaders were. Nobody else has license to behave that way, if Jason [Sudeikis] doesn’t. If the leader of the team is the person who’s affording the most space to people and who’s giving the power to other people, then everybody else just has to follow suit. And it’s the exact thing on The Power. Our executive producers are unbelievable, from Jane Featherstone to Naomi De Pear to Naomi Alderman, who wrote the book, as well. The messages that we were getting from the top down were very much, “Everybody here has to have their own space.” There just wasn’t any tolerance for anything else. There couldn’t be any bad apples. When I say it out loud, I just can’t believe how lucky I’ve been, in these first few years of my career, to have some of the most incredible castmates. I did a majority of my stuff in The Power with Heather [Agyepong], my co-star in my little section, and the two of us had to help each other navigate that. We were in our little section, where we didn’t have an older lead actor to look up to. We had to be that for each other. So, it was actually really cool to be able to set the tone, in our own little unique way. A lot of the stuff that I learned from the leaders that I had on Ted Lasso definitely filtered into the way we all worked on The Power.

Toheeb Jimoh as Sam Obisanya in Season 3 of Ted Lasso
Image via Apple TV+

Because The Power is such a global story taking place in various parts of the world, as a cast, you’re all spread out and you’re telling your own little mini stories within the bigger stories. What was that like? Did it feel like you were making your own show within the show, most of the time?

JIMOH: Oh, yeah, definitely. It really felt like every section was its own thing because we’re dealing with different things. As much as we’re all sharing the same world, we’re dealing with different things in each section, and they’re also culturally specific and actor specific and character specific. It really did feel like the Nigeria section and the Tunde day section was its own thing. The Margot (Toni Collette) and Jos (Auli’i Cravalho) section was its own thing. The Allie (Halle Bush) section was its own thing. But within all of that, we shared themes and we had the same creative team, who had the job of holding us all together and making sure we were all on the same track. It was really fun to get to focus specifically on our own little sections and try to make them sing.

What was it like to be the character that gets to move through these different worlds? You got to share some screen time with Toni Collette. What was it like to work with her, and to also dabble in each of these worlds a little bit?

JIMOH: That was probably the most fun part. Tunde is a wanderer and a journey man. He gets to meet Tatiana (Zrinka Cvitesic), and he gets to meet Margot, and he meets other characters. That was the fun part for me. Other people didn’t get that luxury, but I got to bridge the gap between our different worlds a little, and that was awesome. As an actor, for Toheeb, the person, it was dope. Our little section was me and Heather, and we’re still relatively young and relatively new in our journeys. So, to get to go and work with the other actors on our show, like Toni Collette, who is probably the most experienced and just a super human rock star of an actor, it was awesome because it gave me that opportunity to learn and to grow. I always love being in positions where I can pick the brains of people who have been in this industry for so much longer than me. So, even though we only had one scene together, it was really awesome, and I treasured that experience. Toni and I are actually besties now. We message each other, all the time, so we’re cool.

Your character points out how everything that’s happened has made him really stop and think about being a Muslim Nigerian man, and how those identities intersect with each other. He also talks about not having realized how not being a man affects the safety and voice and space of the women in his life. What was it like for you to get to explore something like that and to come to an understanding like that, through you character? Did that also make you think a lot about what could happen, if something like this really happened?

JIMOH: It’s been interesting. That’s part of the joy of playing a character that’s this complex and this diverse. As a Nigerian, as a man, as somebody from a Muslim background and a Muslim family, it’s been dope for me to just get to explore all of that in a character. It’s really rare to be able to have a character that I get to share those three things with. I’ve obviously had the opportunity to play men before, but it’s been dope to explore the Nigerian and the Muslim part of it. Learning through your characters is one of the joys of acting. It’s a really dope privilege to be able to go on the journeys that your characters go on because you end up learning the stuff that they learn. And in a show like this, which is partly why I wanted to do a show like The Power, its politics completely aligned with mine, and all of us get to do that. We get to go on these journeys with our characters and take information from them.

So yeah, it’s opened my eyes, in different ways. Even just by the end of it, Tunde is in a spot in the world now, where like a lot of the dangers that women in our society today face, he’s now having to face, in these different countries that he’s in. And so, part of my job was to really hone in on, how do you protect yourself? How do you look after to yourself, if you can’t just rely on your physical strength? So yeah, it’s been super enlightening and really eye opening. Some of the conversations I’ve had with the women in my life about everyday practices, I’m like, “Wow, you have to go through that?” In our group chat, they’ll send the license plate of their Uber driver and the location they’re at. It’s stuff like that, that guys just never have to think about. So, this project has definitely opened my eyes, in ways that I hope it opens other male audience members’ eyes, in regard to how women have to operate in our world. A big part of the show is to use your power and use your privilege to enable and to help others. That’s the aim of this show, and fingers crossed it can shed some light and maybe recruit some more allies.

Toheeb Jimoh as Sam Obisanya in Season 3 of Ted Lasso
Image via Apple TV+

When something happens that makes girls different or special, the first instinct that men have seems to be to lock them up or punish them in some way, but then there’s your character, who’s really the one observing what’s going on and trying to learn from it. He’s the one gathering all this information and taking it all in. What do you think people could learn from someone like him?

JIMOH: It’s the idea that empowering somebody else means disempowering yourself. That’s where it stems from, and there’s an insecurity in that. Listening and observing is what he does well, and as he does that, he realizes that this thing isn’t the threat to men that people might immediately think it is. Women are just as complicated as men. Some people will use power for good, and some people will use it for evil or for chaos. What he realizes is that it doesn’t immediately mean that men are going to be disempowered, if women are empowered. That’s a really important part of it. Like you said, as soon as anybody gets empowered, people immediately get defensive and get reactive. That’s why the listening part is the important part. The job of the journalist is to seek truth and to maybe be impartial, even if it’s something that affects him, as a man. What he looks to, more than anything, is what’s the story and is it important? What’s the heart of it? What’s the truth of it? How do I spread that message without enforcing my opinion on it? And by giving himself space to do that, he learns something new.

What I really love about this character is that he’s really fluid. In the same way that he’s getting to redefine his masculinity and find what that means to him, he’s also getting to redefine his thoughts and figure out how he wants to be and how he wants to operate. That comes from listening, and him being a journalist helps. Those are the messages that the show spreads, and that’s what I hope our audience takes from it, especially our male audience and specifically our younger male audience. We’re at a time right now where young men are being polluted with a lot of information about how they should be and how they should operate. So many people are trying to drag men back to the most problematically traditional versions of themselves. Just listening and giving space and knowing that empowering one group isn’t threatening the other is an important thing. There isn’t a lot of that in the media space right now. I’m glad that our show gets to occupy that space and gets to speak to the best in people, and not to their worst fears and insecurities.

The Power is available to stream at Prime Video.

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