How O-T Fagbenle Perfected His President Barack Obama Impression for The First Lady

The Handmaid's Tale star O-T Fagbenle plays President Barack Obama in Showtime's limited series The First Lady. See the lengths he went to in order to get the performance just right.

By Daniel Trainor Apr 06, 2022 9:33 PMTags
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Talk about sounding presidential!

O-T Fagbenle, who plays President Barack Obama in the upcoming Showtime limited series The First Lady, knew he had big shoes to fill, but none of it would matter if he couldn't that famous voice down.

"[Obama] came at the beginning of social media, he was the first social media president. And so it's a really big challenge to play someone who's so well known and not feel like you're doing [an] imitation of them," Fagbenle told Tamron Hall on April 6.

So, The Handmaid's Tale actor went to great lengths to make sure he got it right.

"There's a whole technical aspect to it, studying dialect and movement and I had some great support, some great coaches," he said. "Some great friends who helped me out with that."

However, Fagbenle—who is British!—also knew that there's much more to the 44th president than his voice.

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"On a deeper level, it's almost like a painter isn't trying to do a photograph of a scene. They're trying to do their impression, their expression of it," the actor told Hall. "I was trying to find his heart, like what's at the core of him. He's such a remarkable individual, he has such love for his family, such intellect, such charisma. It was really trying to get to the heart of the man that was the challenge."

When it came to trying to gain some personal insight from the former President himself, however, Fagbenle says he got the cold shoulder. After being put in touch with Obama's personal assistant, things didn't go according to plan.

"I said, ‘Look I'm filming in three months, can we chat?,' Fagbenle told Variety. "And I got a message back saying—lovely message—‘Barack would love to, but he's booked up.' He's booked up for three months? Just say you don't wanna see me, bro. Just say you don't want to see me."



The First Lady stars Viola DavisGillian Anderson and Michelle Pfeiffer, who play former First Ladies Michelle Obama, Eleanor Roosevelt and Betty Ford, respectively. The series interweaves the stories of three of the most influential women in White House history.

The First Lady premieres April 17 at 9 p.m. on Showtime.

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