One of the most beautiful things to watch is the adventurous journey of black British actors. Like a flower, they went from obscurity to become some of the most sort after actors in the industry. Interestingly, black British actors have been around since the era of silent movies. But sadly, the British movie industry was notorious for denying them opportunities and adequate pay. Determined to put their talent to work, many travelled across the Atlantic in search of fulfilment. And with the recent success of many of them, I daresay that this move was ingenious. In the last decade, British movie screens have begun to see more black British actors. Even Hollywood, seem not to get enough of their dynamic talents. Today, we shine the spotlight on ten of the most talented black British male actors.
1. Idris Elba
First to grace our list of the most talented black British male actors is 48 years old Idrissa Akuna Elba. He is an actor, producer, writer, singer, rapper, songwriter and DJ. Born in Hackney, London in England, Idris Elba kickstarted his acting career in 1994 with the movie, Crimewatch. This was the beginning of over forty-five more amazing movies and many awards. In 2016, Time 100 named him as one of the Most Influential People in the World. So far, at the global box office, his movies have grossed over $9.8 billion. He is mostly known for his dark role as DCI John Luther in British series Luther.
2. John Boyega
John Adedayo Bamidele Adegboyega is a British- Nigerian actor and producer. He first enchanted us when he starred in the sci-fi comedy movie, Attack the Block. But, his international recognition came with the movie, Star Wars sequel trilogy, where he played the role of Finn. He has since gone on to feature in many more dramas and films. In 2016, he received the Trophée Chopard at the Cannes Film Festival as well as the BAFTA Rising Star Award. In 2020, the New African magazine mentioned Boyega as one of the Top 100 most influential Africans.
3. Daniel Kaluuya
31-year-old Daniel Kaluuya is another top black British male actor you most likely already know. Born in London, Daniel at age 9 wrote his first play.
He began acting at a very young age at the Anna Scher Theatre School. His first movie role was in the movie, Shoot the Messenger where he played the role of Reece. He is mostly remembered for his iconic performance as Agent Tucker in Johnny English Reborn. Likewise, his role in Get Out earned him multiple nominations. So far, Daniel has won about 10 awards from his 26 nominations.
4. Ashley Walters
Also known as Ashley D, Ashley Walter is yet another very talented black British male actor. He is an actor, rapper, and songwriter.
He is most popularly known for his role as Ricky in Bullet Boy released in 1994. Walters has also featured in many British TV shows such as The Bill, Doctor Who, Grange Hill, Holby City, and Silent Witness.
His iconic role as notorious gangster Dushane in hugely acclaimed British TV series Top Boy, only confirmed his flawless acting skills.
In 2017, Lisa Maffia and Sheila Nortley awarded him with the British Urban Film Festival honorary award. This was to mark his 25 years of magnificent contribution to film and television.
5. Lennie James
Active in the industry since 1988, Lennie Michael James’ remarkable talent singled him out. He is a Nottingham born actor, playwright and screenwriter.
James has appeared in over 20 movies. He received critical acclaim for his role as Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Tony Gates in the movie, Line of Duty. He also starred in The Walking Dead, Critical, and Jericho.
In case you don’t know, James was the writer of the autobiographical TV film, Storm Damage in 2000. This was nominated for a British Academy Television Award for Best Drama Series.
6. David Oyelowo
Born in Oxfordshire, England in 1976, David Oyelowo is a face you wouldn’t forget in a hurry. He began his acting career in 1999 by playing roles in Ben Jonson’s Volpone.
One of his most popular roles was playing Martin Luther King Jr in Selma. This singular movie earned him numerous awards from different award agencies.
In 2016, David was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE). He has so far won more than 18 awards from over 40 nominations. Hence, earning him a spot as one of the most talented black British male actors.
7. Richard Ayoade
Of course, it wouldn’t make sense if Richard Ellef Ayoade is missing here. This multi-talented black British male actor is a screenwriter and comedian. He is also a television presenter, film director, and author.
He started acting in 2000 by playing characters at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Since then, he has featured in at least 13 movies. The most popular amongst which is his role as Maurice Moss in The IT Crowd.
Richard has won about seven awards, including an International Emmy Awards. He is also an author of three film comedic books: A Cinematic Odyssey, The Grip of Film, and Ayoade on Top.
8. Chiwetel Ejiofor
Sure to grace our list is Chiwetel Umeadi Ejiofor, a British-Nigerian actor and filmmaker. He was first sighted in 1996 in the television film, Deadly Voyage. Since then, he has featured in at least 40 movies.
His epochal role in 12 Years a Slave will never be forgotten. This singular role earned him over 35 local and international awards. In 2008, Queen Elizabeth II recognized his services to the arts and appointed him Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE). In the 2015 birthday honours, his rank was elevated to Commander of the OBE
9. David Harewood
Born in 1965, David Harewood is a black British actor and presenter. He began acting in 1990. But his role as David Estes in Homeland where he was a CIA Counterterrorism Director brought him to the limelight.
At a young age of 18, David gained entry into the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Since then he has featured in over fifteen movies, and over 50 TV films and series.
David Harewood is also a member of the Order of the British Empire and an ambassador for mental health. In 2019, he hosted a BBC documentary titled, David Harewood: My Psychosis and Me.
10. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje
Another talented black British male actor worthy of mention is Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. He is a director, actor, and former fashion model.
He first started as a model before ending up in Hollywood. There, in 1995, he took on his first debut role as Kahega in the movie, Congo.
Adewale has starred in numerous movies such as Oz, The Bourne Identity, Thor: The Dark World, Suicide Squad, Lost. He is also a lawyer with a Masters degree from the University of London.
Much to be admired is the sheer willpower and determination of these black British actors. Driven by their passion, they have refused to give in to any limitations or excuses.
This is why they have gracefully earned a spot not only on British movie screens but also in Hollywood. Hence, their daring achievements will continue to remain a blazing trail for many budding black British actors.
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Chimnonso Onyekwelu is an excellent copywriter and a recovering Attorney. She spends most of her time writing, reading and writing again.