15 Nigerian Actors Excelling on the International Movie Scene
In this article, we bring to you 15 Nigerian actors excelling on the international movie scene, joining the ranks of A-list celebrities like David Oyelowo, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Sophie Okonedo.
Born in 1985, Tracy Ifeachor is an actress best known for playing the role of Aya Al-Rashid in The CW vampire series The Originals and Abigail Naismith in both parts of the Doctor Who Christmas special, The End of Time. Ifeachor made her theatre debut as Minerva in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Noughts & Crosses directed and adapted by Dominic Cooke. Soon after, she made her television debut as Leila in No Going Back, an episode of BBC1’s Casualty, which aired in January 2009. She has since made the move to American television and appeared recurrently in shows like Crossbones, Quantico, and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.
Hope Adjoko Olubunkonla Olaide Wilson is an actress and producer famous for her role as Bertrise in the action-drama series The Last Ship. Growing up in the United Kingdom and Nigeria, Wilson studied acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. She was awarded her first role in 2006 when she was cast as Princess Njinga in the documentary series Untold Stories of the ER. Wilson earned her first major recurring role in 2014 when she was cast as Bertrise, a woman immune to the Red Flu virus, in the TNT action-drama series The Last Ship. Since then, she has appeared in TV shows and movies such as Code Black, Mind Games, The Price, Rosewood, The Fosters, Faith and Dreams, Lie to Me, Cold Case, and Criminal Minds.
Yvonne Orji plays Molly, one of the most complex characters in HBO’s hit comedy Insecure. Orji was born in Rivers State, Nigeria, and grew up in Maryland, United States. She holds a Master’s degree in public health at George Washington University. Orji’s parents expected her to become a doctor, lawyer, pharmacist, or even an engineer. However, she was inspired to do comedy as a child, after her stand-up performance in the talent section of a beauty pageant. After graduate school, Orji moved to New York to pursue a career in comedy and has since appeared in a few shows including Jane the Virgin, Love that Girl and Flip the Script. Recently, it was announced that she will star in Kevin Hart’s upcoming comedy Night School, alongside Tiffany Haddish and Ben Schwartz.
Adetomiwa Edun is an actor of Nigerian and Ghanaian origins. He is best known for his roles as Sir Elyan in the television show Merlin and Marcus Young in Bates Motel. Edun attended Eton College from the age of 13, before studying Classics at Christ’s College, Cambridge. In his final year at Christ’s College, he won the dissertation prize for his thesis on Homer’s Odyssey. Edun’s father encouraged him to seek a career in banking, which led to an internship with Citigroup. He considered studying for a Master of Philosophy degree but decided to attend the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) instead. Following his graduation, he played small parts in productions at the Almeida Theatre and the Liverpool Playhouse. In 2009, Edun became the second Black actor to play Romeo at the Globe Theatre when he was cast in Dominic Dromgoole’s production of Romeo and Juliet. He has also appeared in several television shows including The Fixer, Law & Order: UK, Lucifer, Legends, and Death in Paradise. He also performed motion capture and voiced the role of Alex Hunter in the video game FIFA 17 and reprised his role in FIFA 18.
Nigerian television and film actress, writer and producer Olatokunbo Susan Olasobunmi Abeke “Toks” Olagundoye was born on September 16, 1975. She is known for her role as Hayley Shipton in Castle and Jackie Joyner-Kersee in the ABC TV sitcom The Neighbors. Olagundoye made her screen debuts on both television and the big screen in an episode of the television series The Education of Max Bickford and later in the film Brown Sugar that same year. In addition, she has guest-starred on Ugly Betty, Law & Order, CSI: NY, Switched at Birth, NCIS: Naval Criminal Investigative Service and Prime Suspect. Her film credits include A Beautiful Soul, Come Back to Me, Absolute Trust and The Salon.
Oladayo A. Okeniyi
Nigerian-American actor Oladayo A. Okeniyi is popularly known for his role as Thresh in The Hunger Games and Danny Dyson in Terminator Genisys. Born in Jos in 1988, Okeniyi grew up in Lagos, Nigeria, with his four siblings. In 2003, he moved with his family to Indiana, United States and later California. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in visual communications from Anderson University, Indiana in 2009. Prior to being cast in The Hunger Games, Okeniyi worked in local theatre and in film shorts. He also starred in the 2014 film Endless Love, as well as in the NBC series Shades of Blue.
Donald Adeosun Faison was born on June 22, 1974. An actor, comedian, and voice actor, best known for his roles as Dr. Chris Turk in the ABC (formerly NBC) comedy-drama Scrubs and a minor role as Murray in the film Clueless (1995). He also starred as Phil Chase in the television sitcom The Exes. In addition, Faison has co-starred in the films Remember the Titans (2000), Uptown Girls (2003), Something New (2006), Next Day Air (2009), and Kick-Ass 2 (2013).
Nigerian-British actor Nonso Anozie has worked on stage, in film, and television. He is best known for roles such as Tank in RocknRolla, Sergeant Dap in Ender’s Game, Abraham Kenyatta in Zoo, and Xaro Xhoan Daxos in the HBO’s hit television series Game of Thrones. Prior to these, Anozie played the lead in Cass, a 2008 British crime drama 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. In 2011, he played Artus, a Zamoran pirate and close friend of Conan, in Conan the Barbarian. That same year, he was cast to play Jackson Burke in The Grey. He also played Samson in the History Channel’s television miniseries The Bible and from 2013 to 2014, the role of Renfield in the NBC series Dracula.
Actress, director, and writer Adepero Oduye was born in Brooklyn, New York. Although she graduated from Cornell University as a pre-med, she decided to pursue her passion for acting. Oduye’s breakout role came in 2011 when she starred in Dee Rees’ critically acclaimed and award-winning independent film Pariah, for which she received several awards and a nomination for Best Female Lead at the Independent Spirit Awards. During her Golden Globe acceptance speech for The Iron Lady, A-list actress Meryl Streep mentioned some of her favourite performances of the year, highlighting Oduye in Pariah. The following year, she joined an all-star cast in the Steel Magnolias television remake as Annelle Dupuy-Desoto, a role originated by Daryl Hannah. Oduye also starred alongside Chiwetel Ejiofor in Steve McQueen’s historical drama 12 Years a Slave, winner of the 2014 Academy Award for Best Picture. In 2015, she shared the screen with Steve Carell in Adam McKay’s comedy-drama The Big Short, which won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. Oduye made her directorial debut in Breaking In. The film has garnered acknowledgments and awards from several film festivals. In 2017, she co-starred in the thriller drama The Dinner, with Richard Gere and was featured in the recently released sci-fi action film Geostorm.
Caroline Chikezie is a British-Nigerian actress, who has gained much recognition for playing Sasha Williams in As If, Elaine Hardy in Footballers’ Wives and the Cyberwoman in Torchwood. Chikezie was born in England to Nigerian parents. At fourteen, she returned to attend a boarding school in Nigeria. After graduation, Chikezie returned to the United Kingdom and enrolled in Brunel University where she studied medicinal chemistry, because her parents hoped that she would take over her father’s hospital in Nigeria. During her degree, she discovered that she was unsuited to academic life. She later won a scholarship to the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts. After roles in Holby City, Casualty, and the award-winning British film Babymother, Chikezie landed her first major role as Sasha Williams in As If in 2001. In 2004, she was cast to play Kyle Pascoe’s girlfriend Elaine Hardy in the third season of Footballer’s Wives. Her other television roles include 40, Judas Kiss, Free Fall, Aeon Flux and The Shannara Chronicles.
Wunmi Mosaku is a Nigerian-British actress, known for her roles as Joy in the BBC 2 miniseries Moses Jones and as Holly Lawson in Vera. Mosaku was born in Zaria, Nigeria, and subsequently emigrated to Manchester, England, where she attended Trinity Church of England High School and Xaverian Sixth Form College. After graduating from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 2007, she made her stage debut at the Arcola Theatre in a production of Pedro Calderón de la Barca’s The Great Theatre of the World. Since then, she has also appeared in The Vertical Hour, Truth and Reconciliation, both at the Royal Court Theatre and Mules at the Young Vic. In 2010, Wunmi Mosaku was named one of The Seven Fresh Faces of Toronto International Film Festival, for I Am Slave. For the same performance, Mosaku also won awards such as Best Actress at the Birmingham Black Film Festival, Best Onscreen performance at the Cultural Diversity Awards and Best Female performance at the Screen Nation Awards. In this year’s edition of the BAFTA TV Awards, she emerged Best Supporting Actress for playing Gloria Taylor in the TV film Damilola, Our Loved Boy.
Born in Wales by parents of Nigerian descent, actress Rakie Ayola is a familiar presence on British television. She began her professional career in classical theatre, but by the early 1990s, was supplementing her stage work with supporting roles in film and television. Her big TV break came with a recurring part in the military drama Soldier Soldier, followed by the role she remains best known for, a three-year stint on the hospital-set soap Holby City as troubled nurse Kyla Tyson. After a short break to focus on raising her two children, Ayola returned to acting full-time in 2012, appearing in the drama Now is Good and the dystopian science-fiction reboot Dredd.
Annette Ngozi Ilonzeh
Actress Annette Ngozi Ilonzeh, better known as Annie Ilonzeh was born to a Nigerian father and an American mother. She is known for her role as Maya Ward in General Hospital and Kate Prince in the Charlie’s Angels. She had bit roles in the movies He’s Just Not That into You, Miss March and Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. She has also appeared in three episodes of Melrose Place, two episodes of Entourage, as well as guest starred in Arrow, Beauty and the Beast and Switched at Birth.
Richard Ellef Ayoade
Born to a Norwegian mother and a Nigerian father, Richard Ellef Ayoade grew up in Suffolk, in England. He studied law at Cambridge University, and followed in the footsteps of British comedy legends like Eric Idle, Hugh Laurie and Graeme Garden when he became the president of the Cambridge Footlights club. Ayoade’s first real TV break was directing, co-writing and starring with Matthew Holness in the cult classic Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace (2004). After starring in The IT Crowd (2006), Ayoade’s position in popular consciousness was cemented, while he continued to direct music videos for Vampire Weekend, Kasabian, and the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs. He would soon get his chance to direct a feature film, Submarine (2010), based on the novel by Joe Dunthorne. It was followed by The Double (2013) co-written by Avi Korine and based on a novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky.