Nigerians are constantly making a name for themselves in the entertainment industry, with stars dominating the international scene. One very interesting fact is that many of your favorite Hollywood stars are of Nigerian descent. Don’t believe me? Here are 5 Hollywood actors you didn’t know were Nigerian.
Cynthia Erivo was born in Stockwell, South London to Nigerian parents. She attended La Retraite Roman Catholic Girls’ School and began a music psychology degree at the University of East London but quit to attend the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. In 2011, she starred in a stage production of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and went on to feature in the Broadway revival of The Color Purple from 2015 to 2017.
Erivo was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her lead role as Harriet Tubman in the biopic Harriet. Cynthia, who is also a songwriter, wrote and performed Stand Up, one of the soundtracks for Harriet which landed her a nomination for the Best Original Song category. Erivo also starred as Aretha Franklin in National Geographic’s anthology series Genius: Aretha in 2011. She received a nomination for her role in Genius: Aretha for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie.
If you’ve seen The Wire, you are definitely familiar with Chris Partlow. Gbenga Akinnagbe who plays Chris was born in Washington, D.C. to Nigerian parents, and was raised in Silver Spring, Maryland. He attended Colonel Zadok A. Magruder High School in Rockville, Maryland, and Bucknell University on a wrestling scholarship.
In 2000, Gbenga graduated in 2000 with a degree in Political Science and English pursuing a career as a seasoned actor who has starred in a number of films including The Savages (2007), The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (2009), Home (2013) and Big Words (2013). Akinnagbe, who is cousins with rapper Wale is also a talented aspiring writer, with two pieces of work published in The New York Times.
Born in London to a Yoruba Nigerian father, Olatunde Fagbenle, popularly called O.T is a British-Nigerian actor. Olatunde was raised by his mother, who helped him nurture his creative tendencies by encouraging him to learn to play the alto saxophone. When he was 14, he began acting for the Ritual Theatre Arts where he played the lead role in William Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
Fagbenle trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA), graduating early to make his debut at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, featuring in the play Les Blancs in 2001. O.T is no newbie to film, starring in Breaking and Entering (2006) and I Could Never Be Your Woman. In 2017, he began playing Luke Bankole, in Hulu’s The Handmaids Tale, earning him multiple nominations. In 2021, O.T also made an appearance in Black Widow as Rick Mason.
The past few weeks had everyone raving about the Netflix series Bridgerton, but did you know that the actor who plays bartender Will Mondrich is Nigerian? Martins Isoken Imhangbe is a British-Nigerian actor who made his debut in theatre in 2018. His performance in the 2018 production of Richard II earned him an Ian Charleson Award nomination.
As a child, Imhangbe lived in Greece from ages 2 to 7 before relocating to South East London. In 2013, Imhangbe graduated from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. After his graduation, he went on to star in Cinderella, Romeo and Juliet and A Human Being Died That Night. Check out our interview with him.
The popular HBO series Lovecraft Country features an interesting shapeshifter – Ruby Baptiste, played by Wunmi Mosaku. Mosaku was born in Nigeria and moved to Manchester, England when she was a year old. Wunmi is popular for her roles in Moses Jones (2009) and ITV series Vera. in 2016, Wunmi won the BAFTA TV Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Gloria Taylor in the TV film Damilola, Our Loved Boy.
She has also made an appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) television series Loki, starring as Hunter B-15. Mosaku was nominated for the BAFTA for Best Actress and won the BIFA Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a British Independent Film for her role as Rial in the 2020 film, His House.