WE’VE SEEN a lot of villains over the course of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so there’s a high bar for what true villainy should look like. After Josh Brolin’s genocidal Thanos any future actors looking to make their mark as a supervillain really have their work cut out for them. But Kingsley Ben-Adir, who plays Gravik in Marvel’s Secret Invasion, is giving a memorable performance.
From his initial introduction on the espionage series, Gravik is authoritative and no-nonsense. He orders his henchman around, doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty in missions, and looks down on all humans. Although his background is being slowly unraveled over the course of the series’ run, it’s clear from the get go that Gravik is not someone you want to mess with.
His goal is simple: humans have lost their claim on Earth, and it’s time for Skrulls to take over. His reasoning? Nick Fury and Captain Marvel made a promise to find Skrulls a new home, but decades later, have yet to fulfill that promise. For Gravik, time’s up, and he doesn’t care how many humans have to die to get what he wants.
That’s evident from the series premiere, where we see Gravik unabashedly carrying out a terrorist attack in Moscow that results in 2,000 (and counting) dead. And just to top it all off, he transforms into Nick Fury and shoots Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), just for the hell of it.
We haven’t seen a villain this ruthless in a while, and Kingsley Ben-Adir’s performance is a huge selling point. The actor has shown incredible range in recent years, playing everything from historical figures to a private detective to a love interest. You’ve probably seen him before and trust, you’ll definitely be seeing him again.
Kingsley Ben-Adir plays Gravik on Secret Invasion.
Kingsley Ben-Adir in Secret Invasion.
Ben-Adir spoke with Buzzfeed recently about how he and the producers of Secret Invasion worked to build out his character. He wanted to pay homage to his mixed-race background while trying out a new accent. One way Ben-Adir found he could add a sense of uniqueness to Gravik: making his character Welsh.
“We were looking at different places he could be from–obviously Birmingham had been done, Peaky Blinders did it, so that didn’t work,” Ben-Adir says. “There’s a mixed race community in Butetown just outside of Cardiff, and I just thought that might be a nice way in.”
His breakout role came in Peaky Blinders, but you may also know him from an Oscar-nominated film.
Ben-Adir in One Night in Miami…
Ben-Adir’s arguably breakout role was in Peaky Blinders, where he played the main role of Colonel Ben Younger for 5 episodes. But if you’re not into British crime dramas, you may know him better from One Night in Miami…, where he played Malcolm X alongside Aldis Hodge and Leslie Odom Jr. Regina King directed the film, which garnered three Academy Award nominations.
You’ve likely seen him in other television shows too.
Ben-Adir in The OA.
He’s also played a private detective on The OA in 2019, and, notably, a love interest in the short-lived, Zoe Kravitz-led High Fidelity television series in 2020.
Look out for him in an upcoming music biopic and a fun doll adventure movie.
Ben-Adir in Barbie.
As for his upcoming roles, Ben-Adir is set to appear as a Ken in the star-studded Barbie movie in 2023. And in 2024, he’s set to take on the main role of Bob Marley in Bob Marley: One Love, alongside Lashana Lynch.
Milan Polk is an Editorial Assistant for Men’s Health who specializes in entertainment and lifestyle reporting, and has worked for New York Magazine’s Vulture and Chicago Tribune.