Top Nigerian Actors Making Their Marks In Hollywood
Nigeria is blessed with both human and natural resources. She exports intellectuals round the globe representing the home nation, and the entertainment industry is not left out. ANTHONY ADA ABRAHAM, profiles some of the top Nigerian born actors in Hollywood
David Oyelowo is best known for playing MI5 officer Danny Hunter in the British TV drama series Spooks (known in North America as MI-5) from 2002 to 2004. Born in Oxford, Oxfordshire, England, to Nigerian parents, Oyelowo first attended a youth theatre after being invited by a girl to whom he was attracted. He then studied theatre studies for A level at City and Islington College and his teacher suggested he should become an actor. After A levels, Oyelowo enrolled for a one year art foundation course, before winning a place and scholarship at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA), finishing his three-year training in 1998.
He had before that appeared in Tomorrow La Scala (2002), Maisie Raine (1998) and Brothers and Sisters (1998). Soon after the end of his time on Spooks Oyelowo made a cameo appearance in the 2005 Christmas special of As Time Goes By. In 2006 he appeared in the TV film Born Equal alongside Nikki Amuka-Bird as a couple fleeing persecution in Nigeria – they also both appeared in Shoot the Messenger (2006), and in The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency (2008) as a husband and wife.
Oyelowo was signed up for the voice cast of the Star Wars Episode 7 animated series being made by Lucasfilm Animation.
The news didn’t come as a suprise to those who knew Oyelowo who has starred in a previous Lucasfilm production Red Tails and had a role in Lincoln, which was produced by Star Wars Episode 7’s Kathleen Kennedy.
He stars as Forest Whitaker’s son in Lee Daniel’s The Butler and is currently shooting Interstellar for Christopher Nolan.
This well known figure in Hollywood was born in Islington, London. His parents are Nigerians, of Yoruba origin. He has a law degree from King’s College London and a Masters in Law from the University of London.
His best known acting roles have been as the imposing convict Simon Adebisi in the 1990s HBO prison series Oz, and as Mr Eko on ABC’s survivor drama Lost. He was also in an episode of New York Undercover. He has numerous film credits since he began acting in 1994 and has appeared in many top films, including The Bourne Identity, in which he played a deposed African dictator, Hitu the police officer in Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, Lock-Nah in The Mummy Returns, and Heavy Duty in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.
In 2009, Akinnuoye-Agbaje told MTV that he was in talks with Marvel Studios to play Black Panther in the film of the same name. When asked, the actor replied “We’re talking to Marvel about ‘Black Panther… This is the first round, so you know; hopefully they’ll look at ‘G.I. Joe’ and see the potential. But it’s about time we have a black superhero, isn’t it? He’s from a fictional village in Africa and the timing is so right for that kind of character to come through… And while I’m in my prime, this is the time. We’ve got [U.S. President Barack] Obama, now we need something onscreen to represent, so… ‘Panther,’ man I would love to see that happen, and I think the more we – my people – campaign for that, the more viable it will be. And I mean, obviously appearing in cult-classics and blockbusters all help, we’re very much on [Marvel’s] radar…I think it’s all about campaigning, I’m going to keep knocking on their door.” However, Marvel Studios have not yet confirmed that he will get the role.
Chiwetelu Umeadi “Chiwetel” Ejiofor, has received numerous acting awards and nominations, including the 2006 BAFTA Awards Rising Star, three Golden Globe Awards’ nominations, and the 2008 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor for his performance in Othello.
Born July 10, 1977 in London’s Forest Gate to Nigerian parents who belonged to the Igbo ethnic group, his father, Arinze, was a doctor, and his mother, Obiajulu, was a pharmacist. In 1988, when Ejiofor was 11, during a family trip to Nigeria for a wedding, he and his father were driving to Lagos after the celebrations when their car was involved in a head-on crash with a lorry. His father was killed, but Ejiofor survived. He was badly injured, and received the scars on his forehead. Ejiofor began acting in school plays at the age of thirteen at Dulwich College and joined the National Youth Theatre. He then got into the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art but had to leave after his first year, after getting a role in Steven Spielberg’s film Amistad. He played the title role in Othello at the Bloomsbury Theatre in September 1995, and again at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow in 1996 when he starred opposite Rachael Stirling, who played Desdemona.
Ejiofor made his film debut in the television film Deadly Voyage in 1996. Ejiofor had his first leading film role in 2002’s Dirty Pretty Things, for which he won a British Independent Film Award for best actor. In the following year, he was part of the ensemble cast of Love Actually, starred in a BBC adaptation of Chaucer’s The Knight’s Tale and also starred in the BBC series Trust. Ejiofor’s performance in Tsunami: The Aftermath received a 2007 Golden Globe nomination for best actor in a mini-series or film made for TV.
In 2007, Ejiofor starred opposite Don Cheadle in Talk to Me, a film based on the true story of Ralph “Petey” Greene (played by Cheadle), an African-American radio personality in the 1960s and ‘70s. He performed on stage in The Seagull at the Royal Court Theatre from January 18 to March 17, 2007.
Ejiofor is considered one of the leading candidates to play T’Challa/Black Panther in the proposed Black Panther film based on the Marvel comic books character.
In 2007, Ejiofor reprised his role as Othello at the Donmar Warehouse, alongside Kelly Reilly as Desdemona and Ewan McGregor as Iago. The production received favourable reviews, with particularly strong praise for Ejiofor. “Chiwetel Ejiofor produces one of the most memorable performances of Othello in recent years”. He was awarded the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor for his performance.
Ejiofor was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2008 Birthday Honours. In the same year, he made his directorial debut in the short film Slapper, which he also wrote, based on an idea by editor/director Yusuf Pirhasan. Ejiofor appeared alongside John Cusack in the 2009 film 2012. The film went on to gross over $700 million, and is among the list of highest-grossing films of all time and placing 5th of top films of 2009.
In 2013, Ejiofor appeared in the leading role in the BBC Two drama series Dancing on the Edge, playing the part of band creator Louis Lester. He is working on more award-winning movies.
Gbenga Akinnagbe is an American actor, best known for his role as Chris Partlow on the HBO original series The Wire. Born in Washington, D.C. in December 12, 1978 to Nigerian parents and grew up in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Akinnagbe was in and out of trouble as a youth. He is the second oldest of six children, with one older sister and four younger brothers. He attended Colonel Zadok A. Magruder High School in Rockville, Maryland. Akinnagbe attended Bucknell University on a wrestling scholarship, majoring in Political Science and English. He is the cousin of DC rapper Wale.
He played “Ben Ellis” in the episode Contenders on the TV series Numb3rs. In the summer of 2006, Akinnagbe performed the role of “Zim” in the NYC Fringe Festival’s “Outstanding Play” award-winning production of Modern Missionary.
In 2003, Akinnagbe auditioned for the role of Chris Partlow on the HBO series The Wire and starting in 2004 began a frequent recurring role. In 2008 during the show’s fifth and final season, he was promoted to a series regular. In 2007, Akinnagbe appeared in the film The Savages with Philip Seymour Hoffman, Laura Linney, and Philip Bosco. He appeared in the remake of The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, which was released by Sony in June 2009. Akinnagbe made a guest appearance on a Season 10 Law and Order: SVU episode entitled “Hell” as Elijah Okello, a former Ugandan child soldier living in New York, facing deportation. Akinnagbe’s former The Wire cast mate Robert Wisdom also appeared in that episode as Father Theo Burdett. In 2010 in Seattle, Washington Akinnagbe starred in world premiere play The Thin Place at The Intiman Theatre. He was also in this fall’s movie Lottery Ticket and is currently in The Good Wife as Pastor Isiah Easton. His former co-star from the The Wire, Frankie Faison, portrayed his father on the show in several episodes. He is currently starring as Kelly Slater, a new nurse in the 3rd season of the Showtime series Nurse Jackie. He will be seen in the lead role of Jack in the upcoming Independent film “Home”, directed by Jono Oliver. He is currently playing a drug lord in the USA series “Graceland”
Caroline Chikezie is a British actress, best known for playing Sasha Williams in As If, and Elaine Hardy in Footballers’ Wives. Chikezie was born February 19, 1974 in England to Nigerian parents.
At fourteen, Chikezie was sent to boarding school in Nigeria in an attempt to make her abandon her dreams to become an actress. Prior to this she had attended weekend classes at Italia Conti. On her return to the United Kingdom she enrolled into Brunel University where she studied Medicinal Chemistry (she was expected to take over her father’s hospital in Nigeria), but left after lecturers decided that she was unsuited to academic life. She later won a scholarship to the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts.
As a film actress, Chikezie has starred in lots of films as Nasuada in the movie Eragon and IJE.
This British Nigerian actor who is best known for his portrayal of Georges Rutaganda in the 2004 motion picture Hotel Rwanda shares birthday with his home country Nigeria. Born October 1, 1962, the energetic actor also starred in the movie Inale (2010), and he is sometimes credited as “Hakim Kae Kazim”,
He also featured as Colonel Iké Dubaku in season 7 of the Fox television series 24 and the TV film tie-in 24: Redemption.
Other movies are Last Flight to Abuja (2012), Girl Soldier (2011), Darfur (film) (2009), The Fourth Kind (2009), X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), Big Fellas (2007), Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007), Hotel Rwanda (2004), Half of a Yellow Sun (2013) and others.
Donald Adeosun Faison:
Born June 22, 1974, is an American actor, comedian, and voice actor best known by fans of the popular television Comedy-drama “Scrubs” (2001–2010) as a leading role, and as Murray in the film Clueless (1995) playing a minor role (reprised in the subsequent television series of the same name). He is a star of the TV Land situation comedy The Exes.
Not only is he a favourite character, believe you didn’t know this American actor’s middle name is Yoruba, Adeosun.
Faison has also co-starred in the films Remember the Titans (2000), Uptown Girls (2003), Something New (2006), Next Day Air (2009) and Kick-Ass 2 (2013).
Faison was born in Harlem, New York, the son of Shirley, a talent agent, and Donald Faison, a building manager. His parents were active with the National Black Theatre in Harlem.
Before his debut on Scrubs and Clueless, Faison appeared in a 1991 commercial for Folgers Coffee at the age of 17, in which he played the younger brother of a soldier returning from war. The following year, he appeared along with Malik Yoba, in the ABC News special Prejudice: Answering Children’s Questions, hosted by Peter Jennings. He then became famous for his role as “Murray Lawrence Duvall” in the film Clueless, the 1995 movie, and its subsequent television series, which ran from 1996 to 1999. In 1995, he also appeared in Waiting to Exhale as “Tarik”, the son of Loretta Devine’s character, “Gloria.” He was featured in New Jersey Drive. He also starred in Big Fat Liar alongside Frankie Muniz, Paul Giamatti, and Amanda Bynes. He had a recurring role as, “Tracy,” on Felicity, appeared in Remember the Titans, as the running-back turned corner-back Petey Jones, and provided voice work for various characters in the MTV animated series Clone High. He had minor roles in the sitcoms Sister Sister and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch and in the film Josie and the Pussycats. In 2005, Faison produced one episode of MTV’s Punk’d involving his Scrubs co-star Zach Braff. He has also appeared in the music videos for Brandy’s “Sittin’ Up in My Room”, Fall Out Boy’s cover of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It,” and Gavin Degraw’s “Chariot.”
He is currently the host for the TBS comedy sketch show “Who Gets the Last Laugh”.
This Nigerian was born 1979. An English actor who has worked on stage, film, and television.
In the summer of 2002 he played the title role in William Shakespeare’s King Lear, and won the Ian Charleson Award in 2004 for his performance in Othello.
Anozie was hired in 2006 to provide the voice for the armoured bear Iorek Byrnison in the film adaptation of Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights. Anozie was replaced by Ian McKellen two months before the film was set to be released. The film’s director, Chris Weitz, told Empire: Anozie played small roles as Think Tank in Guy Ritchie’s film RocknRolla and Frank Mace in Joe Wright’s Atonement. He played the lead in Cass a 2008 British crime drama film recreating the life of Cass Pennant. In 2009, he appeared in the supporting cast of the BBC TV three part 2003 Iraq War drama, Occupation, where he played a US Marine turned private military contractor. In 2011, he played Artus, a Zamoran pirate and close friend of Conan, in Conan the Barbarian. That year, he was also cast to play the role of Xaro Xhoan Daxos in the HBO series Game of Thrones and was cast as Jackson Burke in The Grey. He also plays the role of Samson in the History Channel’s television miniseries The Bible.
Sophie Okonedo, OBE, born 1968, is a British actress, who has starred in successful British and American productions. In 1991, she made her acting debut in the British critically acclaimed coming-of-age drama, Young Soul Rebels. She has received an Academy Award nomination for her critically acclaimed role in Hotel Rwanda, a Golden Globe nomination for Tsunami: The Aftermath, and BAFTA nominations for Criminal Justice and Mrs. Mandela. Her other film roles included Aeon Flux, Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, Dirty Pretty Things, Skin and The Secret Life of Bees.
Okonedo was born in London, the daughter of Joan (née Allman), a pilates teacher, and Henry Okonedo (1939–2009), who worked for the government. Her father was Nigerian, and her mother, an Ashkenazi Jew, was born in the East End, to Yiddish-speaking immigrants from Poland and Russia. Okonedo was brought up in her mother’s Jewish faith. When she was five years old, her father left the family, and she was brought up in relative poverty by her single mother (“but we always had books,” she has said).
Okonedo trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. She has worked in a variety of media including film, television, theatre and audio drama.
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