Hollywood is an exclusive club in which the most successful members are more likely to be young, white and skinny. But these 10 names on our list, many of whom have come from far flung locations, are quietly redefining what it means to become a Hollywood A-lister. Representing the African continent, they have hustled hard, paid their dues and are all but set to reap the rewards of their hard work. We present 10 African actors in Hollywood.
In 2012, Oduye became the first Nigerian actor to grace the cover of Vanity Fair magazine when she appeared in the Hollywood issue alongside famous names like Jennifer Lawrence, Jessica Chastain and Paula Patton. This came on the heels of her acclaimed role as a black lesbian in the excellent Indie film Pariah. She returned to the big screens in last year’s Best Picture winner 12 Years a Slave.
Mr Ejiofor has been one of the busiest actors in Hollywood, appearing in key supporting roles in huge blockbusters like Salt, 2012 and American Gangster. However, he stepped big time into leading man territory in 2013 when he played real life freed slave Solomon Northup in the screen adaptation of Northup’s autobiography 12 Years a Slave for which he received his first Best Actor Oscar nomination. It sure won’t be his last.
This stunning South African beauty is in the news these days for dating fellow Oscar winner Sean Penn but truth is Ms. Theron has been a constant part of the Hollywood A-list since her Oscar winning turn in the 2003 film Monster where she put on weight and uglied up to play tragic real life serial killer Aileen Wuornoys. She stars in the upcoming Mad Max franchise reboot.
Elba was born in London in 1972 but his birth father is Sierra Leonean while his mother is Ghanaian. He paid his dues on British television appearing in many series but soon tired of the glut of “best friend” roles he was constantly offered. This led to a migration to Hollywood where he finally made a breakthrough on the cult TV series The Wire. In 2013, he played Nelson Mandela to critical acclaim in the biopic Long Walk to Freedom.
When it comes to Africans currently making a splash in Hollywood, there is no bigger poster child than Kenyan beauty Lupita Nyong’o. The 31 year old was the breakout star of last year ’s awards season run and her fairytale campaign culminated in a best supporting actress Oscar win for her major film debut, 12 Years a Slave, as well as People magazine crowning her as the most beautiful woman alive. She also landed a Vogue magazine cover.
Born in Benin Republic in 1964, Honsou moved to France at 13 where a chance encounter with Thierry Muggler launched a successful career in modelling. He soon made the leap to Hollywood, appearing first in music videos by Janet Jackson and Paula Abdul before making a transition to films. Some of his screen credits include Blood Diamond, Gladiator and In America. He will next be seen in the Fast and the Furious 7.
Born to a Nigerian father and Jewish mum, Okonedo is best known for her Oscar nominated role opposite Don Cheadle in 2004’s Hotel Rwanda. A recipient of the OBE, Okonedo made her acting debut in 1991 and has enjoyed a lengthy career playing a variety of interesting roles both on stage and on screen. She has appeared in big budget Hollywood movies like Aeon Flux and After Earth as well as less pricey pictures like Skin and The Secret Lives of Bees.
Oyelowo was born to Nigerian parents in London and studied at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts. A lot of high profile work followed on stage including a blistering turn as King Henry VI. One of Hollywood’s busiest actors now, Oyelowo who is married with 4 kids, has appeared in small roles in Lincoln, The Butler and Jack Reacher. He also has a role in Christopher Nolan’s upcoming big budget thriller, Interstellar.
This time last year, only few people had heard of Nigerian born actress Uzoamaka Aduba. But with the success of the Netflix dramedy Orange is the New Black, Aduba has got deserved attention for her indelible turn as the inmate Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren. She recently won a Creative Arts Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series. Here’s to seeing more of Crazy Eyes.
22 year old John, born to Nigerian parents in London received attention from his very first film, the 2011 British sci-fi adventure film, Attack the Block. He was then cast as the curious but lovable houseboy Ugwu in Half of a Yellow Sun where he held his own among stalwarts like Thandie Newton and Chiwetel Ejiofor. He is currently filming the forthcoming Star Wars Episode VII, the continuation of the beloved saga.
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This article is written by Wilfred Okiche and appeared first on Nolly Silver Screen.