Legislators hear 'Lost' actor read Psalm 23
Without any fanfare or a single photographer on hand, one of the actors of the wildly popular and acclaimed series "Lost" left behind his star power Tuesday to promote a different type of strength among local lawmakers: harmony and hope.
Dressed in a simple gray suit draped with a single strand of maile leaves, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, a devout Buddhist, quietly delivered the traditional, daily prayer before the state Senate on Tuesday.
"I thank you very much, deeply, from the root of my heart because I believe this is what my mission is in life, to share this practice and to create dialogue with others," Akinnuoye-Agbaje said as he went before lawmakers.
Akinnuoye-Agbaje plays the character of Mr. Eko, a former African drug lord who had taken on the identity of a Roman Catholic priest. The series is filmed in Hawaii.
In his sonorous, British-tinged voice, Akinnuoye-Agbaje read the 23rd Psalm, which is also the title of the "Lost" episode during which Eko's violent past and struggle for redemption are revealed.
Though the show has been sweeping up awards, including a Golden Globe last month for best television drama series, Akinnuoye-Agbaje called his appearance before the Hawaii Legislature "the pinnacle" of his career.
"This to me is the greatest reward because it's based upon my faith," he said in an interview following the invocation.
He said the message for lawmakers was that they should try to align government law with mystical law and to try to be one with the hearts of the people.
Akinnuoye-Agbaje was invited to deliver the invocation by Sen. Fred Hemmings (R, Lanikai-Waimanalo) after the senator saw the "Lost" episode featuring Eko's story. During the episode the character recites the 23rd Psalm -- which begins, "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want" -- over the funeral pyre of his brother.
Hemmings said he hoped his fellow members of the Democratic-dominated Senate took away from the invocation the idea that everyone is struggling on different paths toward the same goal. People need to work together, he said.
"Not only is the 23rd Psalm powerful, but this man is powerful. And he's a Buddhist reading what is actually a Judeo-Christian psalm. ... Interesting," Hemmings said.
Akinnuoye-Agbaje said he was not looking for a role in a television series when he was presented the part of Mr. Eko.
But he ended up taking the role because of the challenges it posed to his faith of the past 2 1/2 years. Akinnuoye-Agbaje follows the practice of Buddhism taught by the 13th-century Japanese priest Nichiren Daishonin.
By the time Eko reaches the mysterious island upon which the "Lost" characters are castaways, he has fully embraced Roman Catholicism.
Speaking before lawmakers presented an important opportunity because in crafting laws, legislators have the ability to affect the lives of every individual in the state, he said.
"So if you can influence it with your practice, with your faith on any small level, then I think my mission here has been somewhat accomplished," he said.