Toheeb Jimoh still feels bad about breaking his mother’s heart. The 24-year-old British-Nigerian actor knew his mom was set on his becoming the U.K.’s first Black prime minister. Instead, Jimoh has set his sights on an arguably loftier goal: playing James Bond.
Jimoh’s story echoes that of Sam Obisanya, the morally centered footballer he plays in Ted Lasso, the hit comedy starring and co-written by Jason Sudeikis. (The Season Two finale airs next week.) Born in London to Nigerian-immigrant parents, Jimoh and his older brother were sent to live in Nigeria with his grandparents as his mother and father struggled to make ends meet, each working two jobs. When he returned to London around age seven, Jimoh had to adapt to a completely foreign culture.
All these years later, Jimoh still finds himself straddling the line between his Nigerian heritage and his British upbringing. “It’s weird because there will be a lot of times where I don’t feel British,” he tells me from South Africa, where he is filming his next project, “but I can go back to Nigeria, and people look at me like I am a Londoner. So you kind of find yourself in this mid-gap.”
Upon his return to London, Jimoh immersed himself in his schooling, with his parents’ encouragement. They had ambitious plans for him to pursue a career in public service, and the school’s acting classes were something Jimoh took to help lighten the load—until he realized that acting was his passion. “I was much happier going into acting,” he says, than on “the days where I had four different subjects, like double history and then double politics and then finishing off with law for the day.”
At the Young Vic Theatre, Jimoh participated in “parallel productions,” or youth versions of the productions being put on at the Old Vic. On one Saturday, he arrived early for a rehearsal of The Scottsboro Boys, where he played the role of Clarence Norris. It was on this particular day that Jimoh realized what he wanted for his future. “I didn’t feel like a young actor; I didn’t feel like an aspiring actor,” he says. “I just felt like an actor.”
Jimoh hasn’t looked back. Since graduating from the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, in 2018, he has appeared in several shows and plays, as well as a TV movie. After Season One of Ted Lasso, he landed a role in the Almeida Theatre’s production of Nine Lessons and Carols, an exploration of isolation during the pandemic. The play had a special resonance for Jimoh—both his parents work in a hospital now, his mother as a caretaker and his father as a chef.
Next up, Jimoh plays the role of a Nigerian journalist in Amazon Prime’s TV adaptation of Naomi Alderman’s book The Power. He will also return for a third season of Ted Lasso.
Then there’s Jimoh’s goal of one day being the next Bond. “James Bond is so symbolic of British masculinity, and it’s always been a character that I’ve thought, That’s unattainable for a young Black British person,” he says. “There’s always been a little bit of me that kind of went, I want to do that.”
Jimoh views his job as a way to elevate others. “Acting for me has always been partly a way to voice all these opinions that I’ve had since I was a kid, being a Black kid in the U.K.,” he says. “I really like the idea of inspiring people who are now what I was back then.”
The Ted Lasso Season Two finale airs October 8 on Apple TV+
Jacob Robbins is an Associate Editor for Air Mail