“I’d be happier if the BBC gave me another TV series”

The broadcaster and former Paralympian on Nineties rave music, Nelson Mandela, and Game of Thrones.

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Ade Adepitan was born in Lagos, Nigeria, in 1973 and emigrated to the UK aged three. A wheelchair basketball player, he won bronze for Team GB in the 2004 Paralympics. He is best known for his TV work, including CBBC shows such as “Xchange”, Paralympics coverage on Channel 4, “Children in Need” and his new show “Africa with Ade Adepitan”.

What’s your earliest memory?

When I was growing up in the UK, I dreamt of amazing green trees. I used to wonder where it was: is that what heaven is? Then I went back to Nigeria to bury my father in 2006, more than 30 years later, and on the drive from Lagos to my father’s village, I saw those exact trees. I’ll always remember.

Who are your heroes?

The inspiring people that I met on my journey across Africa. I was blown away by what they were able to do under incredibly tough circumstances.

What was the last book that changed your thinking?

Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond, an amazing book about civilisation over the past 13,000 years, and why certain continents managed to get a head start.

Which political figure do you look up to?

Nelson Mandela. When he came out of prison he could have been bitter, he could have started a civil war between races in South Africa, but he decided to go down the path of reconciliation. He’s a massive example to leaders across the world today who lead with aggression first.

What would be your Mastermind specialist subject?

Nineties rave music or Marvel’s X-Men comics.

In which time and place other than your own would you like to live?

I’ll pick the future: the beginning of our interplanetary colonisation. In the next couple of hundred years we will start settling on other planets. It’s scary, but it would be amazing: like when Europeans went out to search for the New World.

What TV show could you not live without?

Netflix has saved my life on long-haul journeys. But the one show I wait for with bated breath is Game of Thrones.

Who would paint your portrait?

I’d like Banksy to do a painting of me somewhere random and incongruous.

What’s your theme tune?

Rudimental’s “Toast to our Differences”.

What’s the best advice you ever received?

A friend that I looked up to a lot when I was playing basketball said to me, “Take the best aspects of people’s games from them.”

What is currently bugging you?

How little value some of our world leaders place on protecting our planet. Everyone’s complaining about immigration and Brexit, but the biggest problem we’re going to face in the future is climate change.

What single thing would make your life better?

The BBC giving me another big TV series!

When were you happiest?

18 August 2018. The day I got married.

In another life what job might you have chosen?

If I was able-bodied, I would have loved to have been an NBA player. But as I am now, an actor.

Are we all doomed?

I’m an optimist and I think we will change our ways and move out of this crazy phase of materialism. So no, we’re not all doomed. 

“Africa with Ade Adepitan” continues on 10 February at 9pm on BBC Two

This article appears in the 08 February 2019 issue of the New Statesman, Broken Europe