Actor Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje turns 44 today*Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje‘s new film, the gladiator-themed “Pompeii” opens this weekend.

And the versatile actor is playing a slave who finds hope in competing as a gladiator.

Agbaje talks about what it was like playing a Roman Empire slave in the action-packed film.

“A slave is a slave,” Agbaje told theGrio.com. “The character that I play is an enslaved African, but under Roman law of that day, a gladiator could earn his freedom by winning a certain number of fights.”

He continued with, “so there is a window of freedom that is possible. That was a huge distinction in playing a slave in more contemporary times.”

Agbaje stars alongside Kit Harrington who also plays a slave-turned-gladiator fighting to save his love during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and as Pompeii begins to fall.

Watch the stars talk about their new film below: