Philip Akin is a busy character and voice actor and theatre director who has been active for over 35 years on the Canadian stage and in film and television. He was born in 1950 in Kingston, Jamaica, and his parents moved to Oshawa, Ontario, in 1953. He and his brothers followed suit the next year. Shortly after attending high school, Akin studied at the Ryerson Institute of Technology (now Ryerson University) in Toronto. In 1975, he became the school’s first acting graduate, landing a role just a few days later in a Shaw Festival production of Bernard Shaw’s Caesar and Cleopatra.
His Canadian films include Three Card Monte (1978; his first screen credit), Running, Improper Channels, Airborne, Left Behind, Roger Spottiswoode’s Shake Hands with the Devil (as Kofi Annan, then U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations) and This Beautiful City. He has had featured roles in big-budget U.S. movies such as Iceman, Married to It, Fly Away Home, Pushing Tin, The Sum of All Fears, S.W.A.T. and Get Rich or Die Tryin’.
Akin first came to prominence in the early 1980s when he performed on the comedy series Bizarre (1980–85), which was shot in Toronto. Other recognizable roles include the computer expert Norton Drake in War of the Worlds, an American series that went off the air in 1990. He had a recurring role in Highlander: The Series and has be seen in a long list of guest appearances on series such as Night Heat, Traders, Goosebumps, F/X: The Series, Friends and Heroes and most recently Flashpoint. He has also done a lot of voice work, in such animated series as Swamp Thing, X-Men, Avengers and Monster Force, and has appeared in countless Canadian made-for-television movies.
In 2000, Akin was a founding member of Obsidian Theatre, Canada’s leading black theatre company, and has served as its Artistic Director since 2006. In this role, he has worked tirelessly to provide opportunities and guidance for emerging artists. In 2002, he was part of the team that launched the Obsidian Mentor/Apprentice Program, a one-of-a-kind program that has helped black artists embark on careers with some of the most established Canadian performing arts companies.
Akin was most recently seen on stage in the 2009 production of The Last days of Judas Iscariot (Birdland Theatre) and the 2007 productions of Othello and Of Mice and Men (Stratford Festival). His directing credits include Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Ruined; Toronto the Good and El Paso (Factory Theatre); Intimate Apparel (Citadel Theatre, Canadian Stage, Obsidian Theatre); and Black Medea, Born Ready and Pusha Man (Obsidian Theatre).
In 2010, Akin received the Silver Ticket Award for outstanding contribution to the arts presented by the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts. In 2011, he was honoured with the Mallory Gilbert Leadership Award, the Bra D’Or Award from the Playwright’s Guild of Canada and was the Toronto Sun’s Performance Artist of the Year. He is currently the vice-president of the board for the Canadian Contemporary Dance Theatre and a member of the Humber College Theatre Program’s Advisory Board. He has also served on juries for Theatre Ontario, Ontario Arts Council and Canada Council. In 1983, Akin began studying Yoshinkan Aikido and is a 5th degree black belt in that art. He has also trained in Jing Mo Kung Fu and T’ai chi ch’uan.
Also see: Philip Akin’s filmography.
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