O-T Fagbenle’s new series is a family affair.
That’s because “Maxxx,” a six-episode comedy created by Fagbenle (“The Handmaid’s Tale”), co-stars and is co-executive-produced by his brother, Luti. “We made our first short when he was 8 and I was 12,” the London-born Fagbenle, 39, tells The Post. “But this was our maiden voyage in creating our fully produced written, directed long-form narrative.”
Premiering Tuesday on Hulu, “Maxxx” follows its titular character (Fagbenle), a has-been former boy-band star attempting to make a comeback to win back his supermodel ex-girlfriend (Jourdan Dunn) and show the world that he’s still relevant. Luti plays Rico, Maxxx’s ex-bandmate; Chris Meloni co-stars as Don Wild, the coke-snorting manager of Maxxx’s record company.
It’s a switch in TV roles for Fagbenle, a rising star best-known for playing June’s (Elizabeth Moss) husband Luke in “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Hulu’s dark, dystopian series entering its fourth season. He’s also co-starring opposite Scarlett Johansson in Marvel’s upcoming “Black Widow” movie, currently scheduled for a November release.
Fagbenle says “Maxxx” was inspired by his observations on the nature of fame.
“It was a confluence of things,” he says. “Part of it was just noting how the world is becoming more and more obsessed with celebrity, and I wanted to distinguish the difference between being famous and being respected. I wanted to talk about that, and how corrosive that is to the human condition.
“And on a personal level, I’d gone through some bad heartbreak before,” he says. “You can become so attached to these external parts of your psyche, so I also wanted to touch on that. [‘Maxxx’ is] really a silly comedy, and there’s fun ridiculous humor in it, but also we kind of subversively tackle some deeper philosophical questions.”
Meloni, Fagbenle says, “just completely brought his character to life in an extraordinary way.” The show also features several cameos from big names such as the Backstreet Boys and Larry King.
“I was really impressed with the [production] team’s ability to be malleable and flexible and responsive,” he says. “We managed to get these incredible celebrity cameos. It required us to move at lightning speed like, ‘We’ve got an hour to get a film crew down here because Larry [King] says we can shoot him now!’ I wasn’t entirely convinced that we could pull off half the stuff we pulled off.”
Fagbenle found himself having to modify one cameo, he says.
“We managed to convince Jourdan Dunn, who’s Britain’s biggest supermodel, to play my girlfriend in it,” he says. “When I first wrote it, I wasn’t sure of her acting ability, so I pared down the amount of words she’d say. But I met Jourdan and we did a little rehearsal and she was so good and so funny that…I rewrote it and made her role bigger.”
His brother Luti, who’s directed and produced music videos for the likes of Zayn Malik, Iggy Azalea, One Direction and Drake, helped Fagbenle make the world of “Maxxx” feel real, using his skills to include snippets from Maxxx’s boy-band glory days.
“We filmed the show in London last year,” says Fagbenle. “But basically I knew I was going to make ‘Maxxx’ when I was doing press for [‘The Handmaid’s Tale’] and I was traveling around and called my brother and was like ‘How quickly can you mobilize a camera crew?’ So we have footage in Malibu, New York, Jamaica, Mexico — a wide array of places.
“Lots of these things only appear for 10 seconds in the show, but it helps create the texture of the world.”
By Lauren Sarner