Aki Omoshaybi as Gabriel in Silent Witness

Aki Omoshaybi, aka Professor Gabriel Folukoya in Silent Witness, was fostered as a baby: ‘I didn’t fit in’

He didn't have money to eat growing up

Silent Witness season 27 has landed and actor Aki Omoshaybi has returned as no-BS Professor Gabriel Folukoya.

The character joined the cast in 2023, as a data expert who shakes things up on the Lyell team.

But what Aki Omoshaybi been in before, where is he from, and is he sticking around? Here’s everything you need to know!

Aki Omoshaybi in character as Professor Gabriel Folukoya
Aki Omoshaybi plays pathologist Professor Gabriel Folukoya in Silent Witness (Credit: BBC/Dan Kennedy)

Who is Professor Gabriel Folukoya in Silent Witness?

Gabriel is an academic, neurologist and pathologist, who has spent much of his career in innovative research, primarily in the field of data analysis. In series 26, Jack (David Caves) called him in to help with the case of a dead banker, who fell – or was pushed – from the top of a London skyscraper.

At first, Jack just wanted Gabriel to confirm the dead man shook hands with a suspect. But Gabriel’s insights went much deeper – and wasn’t going to be dismissed very easily…

At the time, actor Aki Omoshaybi said about his character: “Gabriel has much less practical experience than Nikki and prefers to computer model an autopsy than to slice a body open.

“But deep down Gabriel knows he needs people like Nikki and Jack. He’s always behind a screen analysing and doing things his way. When Jack and Gabriel meet it’s not all plain sailing. It’s a bit frosty. But Jack realises Gabriel knows what he’s doing. Now he’s dealing with the human side of when someone dies.”

Gabriel arrived in the first episode of Silent Witness series 26, when the team dealt with a case linked to the “Ndrangheta” mafia. He has returned in series 27.

Who plays Professor Gabriel Folukoya?

Actor, writer, director – and dancer! – Aki Omoshaybi portrays Professor Gabriel Folukoya in the cast of Silent Witness on BBC One.

Aki grew up with a foster nan in Portsmouth, Hampshire. A huge football fan, his first foray into acting was in a football musical at Southampton’s football ground!

He went along to the auditions for the show after a friend told him they were looking for extras for a musical, Zigger Zagger. Aki told The Guardian: “I’d never been on holiday, so going from Portsmouth to Southampton seemed like a holiday to me.”

At the launch of the new series of Silent Witness, Aki told ED! that joining was “overwhelming but amazing, all at the same time”. He added: “It felt like I was doing a real-life post mortem. It looked so real. When I got the job I told my brother – a doctor – not knowing he is the biggest Silent Witness fan. He screamed!”

Aki is also a model, and on the books of Select Model agency.

Aki Omoshaybi in character with David Daves and Alastair Michael in Silent Witness 26
David Caves (centre) with the season’s two main recruits, played by Aki Omoshaybi and Alastair Michael (Credit: BBC Studios)

What else has Silent Witness actor Aki Omoshaybi starred in?

Aki trained as an actor and dancer, and has appeared in several West End shows. These include Hair, and Hairspray.

Fans of BBC One’s period drama The Pursuit of Love will recognise Aki as Langston Hughes, a role he played alongside Lily James, Dominic West, and Andrew Scott.

He also had a small role in Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. Aki portrayed a Resistance Bridge Officer in the 2017 movie.

We went on to play Henry Wade in Acorn TV‘s cosy crime drama Queens of Mystery, which followed the adventures of a detective and her three crime-writer aunts. It later aired on Channel 5.

More recently, he played Frank in the film Our House, and Noah Adomakoh in the TV series Midsomer Murders. Other notable films he’s appeared in include The Riot Club, Burning Men and Kids In Love, alongside Cara Delevingne.

Is Aki Omoshaybi a director?

Aki wrote, starred in, directed and produced the movie Real. It was released in October 2019 at the London Film Festival, but a widespread theatrical release was scuppered by the pandemic.

Real was set in Aki’s home town, inner city Portsmouth, and also starred Gangs of London‘s Pippa Bennett-Warner. It tells the fictional story of a jobless man who begins a relationship with a single mother. It’s currently available to watch on Amazon Prime Video.

Aki says: “I wanted to show a different landscape from London. I drove down there, knocked on doors, knocked on all the shops, and just said ‘I’m shooting a film, can you help me out?’ And luckily they did!”

The British film-maker made his first feature, Real, for just £50,000.

The main cast of Silent Witness series 27
Rhiannon May, Alastair Michael, Emilia Fox, David Caves, and Aki Omoshaybi return in Silent Witness series 27 (Credit: BBC Studios/Robert Wilson)

Where is Aki Omoshaybi from? Was he fostered?

Speaking about his childhood, actor Aki told Soho House in 2020: “It was football that introduced me to acting. I was born in London and fostered in Portsmouth as a baby.

“When I was 18, my friend in Hampshire Theatre Group suggested I audition for Zigger Zagger, a play about football hooliganism at Southampton’s club ground. I auditioned and managed to land the lead part. It felt like getting all the attention for the first time, and that was uncomfortable, but at the same time I loved it.”

A few years later, the actor admits his fortunes turned. He added: “I did a performing arts course at college, but didn’t really apply myself. I don’t want it to sound like a sob story, but I didn’t have enough money to eat, so I was always knackered and my mind was elsewhere.

“Although I didn’t grow up with my mum, we did have a relationship. After college, I persuaded her to lend me the money to audition for drama school. Being working class and black, there weren’t many people like me in that environment back then.”

Talking about his childhood alienation, he added: “Being fostered and growing up in Portsmouth, which was predominantly white, I felt like I didn’t fit in. Then, I’d visit my mum and feel the same because of the Nigerian culture; I was so Westernised. In a way, I was constantly fighting for acceptance.”

Read more: Silent Witness: All the huge names that started out in the BBC One drama

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Silent Witness returns to BBC One on Monday, January 2, 2022 at 9pm.

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