When we first met Remi Adeleke he was a soldier. Remi started showing his men our White Chair Films and using them to discuss Jesus and faith. We heard about this through social media. When he came back stateside, we brought him in for an interview and learned his life has been a wild ride. Born into royalty in Africa, then a poor kid in the Bronx, then a Navy SEAL, an actor, and now an author and screenwriter. I got to catch up with him in a new interview about his upcoming book: Transformed: A Navy SEAL’s Unlikely Journey from the Throne of Africa, to the Streets of the Bronx, to Defying All Odds.
Doug Bender: The subtitle to your new book has so much story packed into that. You come from a royal family in Nigeria, then you were a poor kid in the Bronx, then a Navy SEAL and now an actor and writer. With so much story packed in there, tell me something in the book that you are really excited for people to read about.
Remi Adeleke: The concept of second chances. When I went to go join the Navy, the recruiter ran my background and there was my arrest record. Right there, I did not qualify. I went to a Marine recruiter first. I sat in his office for fifteen minutes and he never showed up. There was coffee on his desk and everything, but he never came back. After fifteen minutes, I got up and walked over to the Navy recruiter’s office. That’s where I met this lady. With my record, I could not join the military.
But she actually advocated on my behalf in front of two judges and asked them to expunge my record. She went a step further and expunged all the military paperwork, too. It was the Lord. Fast forward some years and I was named Navy SEAL of the year for my unit. I put that letter, word for word, that recognized me for that, in my book. I didn’t even qualify to be in the military, but here I am named Navy SEAL of the year. I hope that through that chapter people will see the importance of giving someone a second chance. Someone gave that to me and look what’s happened.
DB- You talk a lot about the long odds you’ve had to face over your life. What are some of the things you’ve had to face?
RA- It started with leaving Africa. We went from rich to poor. How do I get out of that? The odds were stacked up against us. Especially being in the Bronx, the crime and that environment. Just beating the odds by not ending up in prison is a big one for me. The stuff I was doing should have gotten me in prison. But the Lord had favor on me. He was protecting me, even from myself. He was looking out for me.
Swimming was another. I wanted to be a Navy SEAL, but I couldn’t swim. I didn’t allow my deficiency to keep me from chasing this dream to be a SEAL. That’s the other thing I want people to get from this book, the concept that we all have deficiencies on the way to achieving our dreams. We can either allow those deficiencies to define us or we can figure out how to do the extra hard work of accomplishing those dreams.
DB- Now, I’m a writer. I know how the writing world can work. It’s not uncommon for someone to hire a writer to tell their story. But you have actually written this book yourself. This is your voice.
RA- I was half-way through writing the book when I turned in the first fourteen chapters to the publishers. The publishers saw this and they loved the writing but were worried I was writing a 200,000 word book. They told me I had to hire a ghostwriter. I agreed and it was tough finding someone who could do it in the time available. I paid them. I sat down and dictated my story to their assistant. The next month I get on a call with the writer and it just wasn’t my voice. I read the first line of the first chapter and I said, “Nope.” Then, I read the second line, “Nope.” I just knew that’s not my voice.
I went back to the publishers and I told them I had to write the book myself. They freaked out because I was only a month or so from the deadline and I only had half the book. But even the writer I was working with said, “You are a gifted writer. No one can tell this story like you. I hate to lose a job, because in all the years I’ve been writing I’ve never lost a job. But you need to write this story.”
I turned it all in on time and now I’m in talks with a major studio to turn it into a movie.
DB- Last we talked, you were consulting in Hollywood helping make sure the military aspects of films or television shows were accurate to real-life. Then you got a role in the movie Transformers: The Last Knight. You’ve now gone beyond that to even writing your own screenplay.
RA- Right after Transformers came out, I signed my book deal. I wrote the book. I was supposed to contract a writer, but then I wrote it all myself. That turned into a big journey for me. I was in acting school, which helped me tremendously as a writer. I had to learn a lot about characters, dialogue, story arc, all these different things that actors have to deliver on screen. I was able to put that into my writing. Writing the book gave me confidence to write my movie and get into screenwriting. That’s what’s next for me: films. I want to make movies and tell unique stories that are motivational and raw. That’s the next chapter. I’m telling my story in this book because my story is God’s story. That’s what I want people see.
DB- You were a Navy SEAL and you still look like a guy who “occasionally” works out. But as you mention, your story is a God story and I know you also take seriously the spiritual side of yourself. Tell me a little bit about what the spiritual side of your training looks like.
RA- For years, I’ve memorized Scripture. I quote it to myself throughout the day when certain things come into my life. I let the Word of God be my sword to battle any opposition I face even if the battle I face is my own thoughts. I have a daily routine where I pray and read the Bible, that’s huge for me. When I work out, I also listen worship music. That just refreshes me and washes over me especially when I’m dealing with stress. I allow it to remind me of who I am in God, his promises, and to remind me of who he is. I also have good godly people in my life because there are so many distractions. I could just gravitate to those distractions so easily so having godly people in my life is so huge.
DB- Anything else you want our I Am Second audience to hear from you?
RA- I so appreciate I Am Second. You guys were the first who really shared my story. You created that groundswell, that buzz for me and for this book and all the things I’m doing now. My story is God’s story and you guys have been helping me tell that story from the beginning. I so appreciate that.
If you missed Remi Adeleke’s latest I Am Second film, you can catch it HERE. His book, Transformed: A Navy SEAL’s Unlikely Journey from the Throne of Africa, to the Streets of the Bronx, to Defying All Odds just came out and you can find it anywhere you buy books. Go check it out.