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Naija To The World: 15 British Actors Of Nigerian Descent Making Strides On The Big Screen

Naija To The World: 15 British Actors Of Nigerian Descent Making Strides On The Big Screen


David Oyelowo, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Cythia Erivo, Deborah Ayorinde, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. These are but a few of the actors who are working steadily in Hollywood — actors who have, for the most part, not changed their names for more easily pronounced stage names. The common thread among this crop of acting talent is one of pride in their roots and in their country of origin, Nigeria. British actors Nigerian descent

Nigerians are known to be far-travelled. There are reports that Nigerians and people of Nigerian decent can be found in every country in the world. This should not come as a surprise as Nigerians are known to adapt and succeed where ever they find themselves.

The stars on this list were either born in England or born in Nigeria but are now British citizens. Either way, they all have two things in common: they are of Nigerian descent and are making strides on the big screen. British actors Nigerian descent

Here are fifteen British actors of Nigerian descent…

#1. Chiwetel Ejiofor

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Award-winning actor Chiwetelu Umeadi Ejiofor was born in 1977 in London to Nigerian parents, Obiajulu (nee Okafor), a pharmacist, and Arinze Ejiofor, a doctor. Chiwetel attended Dulwich College in South-East London. He began acting at the age of 13, later joining the National Youth Theatre. He eventually got a place in London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. He has been featured in a number of Hollywood movies with plenty of awards to show. Some of his most famous works include 12 Years a Slave, Dirty Pretty Things, Serenity, and 2012.

#2. David Oyelowo

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Hollywood actor, David Oyewole was born in Oxford, Oxfordshire, England, to Nigerian parents: a father from Oyo state and mother from Edo state. He is a classically trained stage actor who has quickly become one of Hollywood’s most sought-after talents. He graduated from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) and has featured in movies like: The Butler, Small Island, Rise of Planet of the Apes, Middle of Nowhere, Lincoln, and Blood and Oil, (a film about Niger-Delta, oil, and militancy in Nigeria). British actors Nigerian descent

#3. Sophie Okonedo

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Born to a Nigerian father Henry Okonedo and a Jewish mother Joan Allman in 1968, Academy Awards and Emmy Awards-nominated Sophie Okonedo is a British actor, narrator, and singer. Sophie was brought up in the Chalkhill Estate–a large council estate within the Wembley Park district of the London Borough of Brent. She chose to follow acting as a profession and was trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, one of the oldest and most prestigious drama schools in the United Kingdom. Okonedo has played in great movies like Hotel Rawanda, Rached, Young Soul Rebels, Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls and Stephen Frears’s Dirty Pretty Things.

#4. John Boyega

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John Adedayo Adegboyega (Boyega) is a British-Nigerian born in Peckham, South London to Nigerian parents Samson and Abigail Adegboyega. He began acting at Theatre Peckham, a local performing arts centre in London for talented children aged 9 to 14. Boyega spent almost every day after school at the theatre, as well as at weekends. At 16, he moved to South Thames College to study performing arts, and joined the Identity School of Acting in Hackney. Boyega consequently enrolled at Greenwich University but as his career took off, he left to concentrate on acting. He has featured in several movies, including: Attack and Block, Half of A Yellow Sun, Star Wars, and Pacific Rim Uprising.

#5. Cynthia Erivo

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Cynthia Erivo was born on January 8, 1987 in Stockwell, London, England as Cynthia Chinasaokwu O. Erivo. She attended La Retraite Roman Catholic Girls’ School in the Clapham Park area of the London Borough of Lambeth, England. Erivo began a music psychology degree at the University of East London; however, a year into her degree, she applied to, and subsequently trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. She began acting in a 2011 stage production of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. After which she gained recognition for starring in the Broadway revival of The Color Purple from 2015 to 2017, for which she won the 2016 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical and the Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album. Erivo ventured into TV in 2015 and films in 2018. British actors Nigerian descent

#6. Nonso Anozie

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Nonso Anozie is a British actor who has worked on stage, film, and television. He was born in London, England, of Nigerian Igbo descent and graduated from the Central School of Speech and Drama in 2002. He was the winner of the 2004 Magnolia Stage Performance Award in China and was the first non-Chinese to be honored with the prize of best actor. In the summer of 2002, he became the youngest person in history to play William Shakespeare’s King Lear professionally. Anozie is known for his role in Zoo, Sweet Tooth, Game of Thrones and more films.

#7. Deborah Ayorinde

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Deborah Olayinka Ayorinde was born in London, England to Nigerian parents. At age seven, she performed in her first play with a drama school in the Forest Gate area of London. It was there that she developed a passion for the arts. When she was eight years old, she and her family relocated to San Jose, California. In May of 2009, she graduated with honors from Howard University’s John H. Johnson School of Communications with a Bachelor of Arts in Film Production. During her matriculation at Howard, she won the coveted Paul Robeson Best Actress award for her performance in a short film she wrote and directed. Her credits include The Game, Necessary Roughness and recently, Them. Outside of acting, she owns an online Boutique.

#8. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje

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Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje was born to Nigerian parents of Yoruba origin, who were students in the UK. When he was six weeks old, his biological parents gave him up to a white working-class family in Tilbury, Essex. By the time he clocked eight, his biological parents brought him back to Nigeria but, as he was unable to speak the Yoruba language and forbidden by his parents to speak English, he was returned to Tilbury shortly thereafter. Akinnuoye-Agbaje began his career as a model in Milan. He graduated with a masters’ degree in Law from London’s prestigious Kings College, before moving to Los Angeles to make the transition to acting. Adewale is fluent in several languages, including English, Italian, Yoruba, and Swahili. He is known for Oz, The Bourne Identity, Suicide Squad and more. British actors Nigerian descent

#9. Tracy Ifeachor

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Tracy Ifeachor was born and raised in the seaside city of Plymouth in Devonshire, England and is of Nigerian Igbo origin. After being crowned Senior Verse Speaking Champion of the South-West at the age of 15, Tracy was keen to go to drama school to study acting but her father–a Professor of Electronic engineering, an accomplished lecturer, and a published author in his field–was keen for Tracy to finish her education. Tracy later won a scholarship to a top acting school in London, England and graduated with honors from The Royal Central School of Speech & Drama. Soon after, she began to attract the attention of entertainment companies. She is known for her roles in The Originals, Doctor Who, Quantico, Threadstone, etc.

#10. Hakeem Kae-Kazim

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From blockbusters to the prime time small screen, Lagos-born Hakeem Kae-Kazim who was born in 1962, has made his impact in the world of entertainment and has worked alongside many industry greats in the process. This talented actor gained international recognition for his wonderful portrayal of George Rutugunda in the Oscar-nominated film Hotel Rwanda which led him to get lead roles in other movies. His interest in acting began with school plays and The National Youth Theatre which is when he discovered that he had a love for acting. He trained at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, graduating in 1987 and was offered a space with The Royal Shakespeare Company, where he continued his classical training.

#11. Wunmi Mosaku

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Oluwunmi Olapeju Mosaku was born in Zaria, Nigeria, and subsequently emigrated to Manchester, England, when she was one year old. Her parents were both professors in Nigeria but were unable to do the same jobs in the UK. Her mother started a business and her father ended up returning to Nigeria. She attended Trinity Church of England High School and Xaverian Sixth Form College. She also sang for eleven years in the Manchester Girls Choir. She is known for Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, Lovecraft Country, and most recently, Loki.

#12. Tomiwa Edun

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Babatunde Adetomiwa Stafford Edun was born in Lagos, Nigeria, to a Nigerian financier Olawale Edun and half-Ghanaian, half-English Amy Adwoa (née Appiah). His maternal uncle is the philosopher, cultural theorist, and novelist Kwame Anthony Appiah. Edun moved to the United Kingdom at the age of 11. He attended Eton College from the age of 13, before reading Classics at Christ’s College, University of Cambridge. In his final year at Christ’s College, he won the dissertation prize for his thesis on Homer’s Odyssey. He considered studying for a Master of Philosophy degree, but decided to attend the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art instead. He is best known for his roles in What Happened to Monday, Doctor Who, and Cinderella.

#13. Weruche Opia

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Born in Nigeria, Weruche Opia migrated to Britain at the age of 13. Her father, Eric Opia is an author and professor of social sciences and her mother is veteran Nigerian broadcaster and television host, Ruth Benamaisia Opia. Opia holds a degree in drama and sociology from the University of the West of England, Bristol. She runs a clothing line called Jesus Junkie clothing. She has credits in Sliced, Bad Education, and I May Destroy You.

#14. O.T Fagbenle

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Olatunde Olateju Olaolorun Fagbenle was born in London to a Yoruba Nigerian father, journalist Tunde Fagbenle, and a British mother, Ally Bedford-Fagbenle. He was raised by his mother and moved to Spain as a child. Fagbenle moved back to the UK where he continued to perform as a musician in big bands at the Wembley Arena and the Royal Albert Hall. He started acting at the age of 14 for the Ritual Theatre Arts and was given the lead role in an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, performing at international venues and at central London’s Bloomsbury Theatre. Fagbenle trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and graduated early to make his graduate debut at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester in Les Blancs in 2001. Fagbenle’s siblings, whom are celebrities as well, include actor and film producer Luti Fagbenle, video director and producer Daps, WNBA player and Olympian Temi Fagbenle. He is mostly known for his roles in Looking, Black Widow, and Handmaid’s Tale.

#15. Damson Idris

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Damson Idris is a British actor and producer. Born in 1991 in Peckham, South East London to Nigerian parents, he is the youngest of six children. His parents arrived in the UK in search of a better life but he was raised by his single mother. Growing up, he had dreams of going into football. When he realized a professional football career wasn’t going to happen due to a knee injury, he ended up studying drama at Brunel University London. He received a BA Honors degree in Theatre, Film & Television studies. He soon after trained at the Identity School of Acting. His acting debut in 2012 was on the stages of UK theaters. He has had roles in Snowfall, Outside the Wire, Farming, Black Mirror, etc. British actors Nigerian descent

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