The wonderful thing, which brings us both joy and pride is that these Nigerian dreamers (including film stars) are succeeding at their chosen crafts, so much that we hear of them at home in Nigeria and applaud them for the wonderful work that they are doing all over the world.
Nigerians are excelling in so many areas, including the sciences, business, and so many other fields, including the arts, which is the subject of this article. And while there are a lot of film stars whose origins you may know, there are also others that you don’t.
In this comprehensive list, we are sharing 10 film stars who have established a career in Hollywood. You may know some of them while some of these people may be new to you.
This list of film stars comprises of Hollywood actors descended from Nigeria, which means that they were either born in Nigeria and then relocated abroad, or they were born and raised outside Nigeria, or they have one or both Nigerian parents.
This is the result of hard work and tenacity put in by their Nigerian parents to ensure that their children have things better than they did.
Of course, don’t forget to let us know in the comments section below, which new actors you discovered are Nigerian from this list.
1. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje is a British actor, director, and former fashion model. He has been in several movies and is known for his roles in the following movies: Oz, The Bourne Identity, Thor: The Dark World, Suicide Squad, Lost, the HBO series Game of Thrones and Concussion, among others.
While you most likely already know this and have seen him in at least one of these movies, you probably don’t know that Akinnuoye-Agbaje was born in Islington, London, to Nigerian parents of Yoruba origin, who were students in the UK.
However, when he was six weeks old, his biological parents gave him up to a white working-class family in Tilbury, Essex. This is something that Nigerian parents in the UK do and is known as farming. It was the subject of Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s directorial debut, Farming.
In a 2019 interview with Business Day, he described what Nigeria means to him in relating to his movie and the general practice of it.
As a university student, he was introduced to modelling and this was the doorway through which he started his acting career in 1995. His first movie was the 1995 movie, Congo.
2. Chiwetel Ejiofor
British actor, Chiwetel Umeadi Ejiofor, CBE is an actor and filmmaker. He enrolled at the National Youth Theatre in 1995 and also attended the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.
However, three months into the course when Ejiofor was 19, he was recruited by Steven Spielberg for the 1997 film, Amistad in which he played the supporting role of James Covey.
Ejiofor portrayed several characters and is known for such movies like Dirty Pretty Things, Kinky Boots, Serenity, 2012, 12 Years a Slave, The Martian, Doctor Strange, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.
Chiwetel Ejiofor also starred in the movie adaptation of Chimamanda Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun. During a promotional interview, he expressed how proud he is of his heritage, speaking about a misconception that he does not identify as Nigerian.
He has also taken voice acting roles including that of Dr Watson in Sherlock Gnomes and Scar in the 2019 remake of The Lion King.
Chiwetel Ejiofor has also earned a number of awards for his work including Academy Award and Golden Globe Award nominations for 12 Years a Slave.
Well, the talent is of course, of Nigerian origin, and that is why he is on this list of film stars. Ejiofor was born in London to upper-middle-class Nigerian parents from the Igbo tribe.
His father, Arinze, was a doctor, and his mother, Obiajulu, was a pharmacist. His younger sister is CNN correspondent Zain Asher.
However, when he was 11, he and his father were driving back from a wedding when they become involved in an accident that killed his father and left him so badly scarred that he still carries the injuries on his forehead.
Chiwetel Ejiofor began his acting career by participating in school plays while he was a junior at school. When he proceeded to senior school, he did not quit acting and continued until he joined the National Youth Theatre.
Now, he is one of the most renowned film stars making waves in the film industry right now.
3. David Oyelowo
David Oyetokunbo Oyelowo OBE is a British-American actor and producer. He is most widely known for the high profile 2014 biographical drama film, Selma where he played Martin Luther King Jr.
He has also starred in the lead role in the movie, ‘A United Kingdom’, and put on a brilliant performance as a chess coach in Queen of Katwe.
He has also starred in the movies, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Lincoln, Jack Reacher, and The Butler. Oyelowo has also had his time in TV series as Danny Hunter on the British drama series Spooks and Javert in the BBC miniseries Les Misérables.
This is the most interesting part, however: Oyelowo was born in Oxford, England, to Nigerian parents. His father is from Oyo State while his mother is from Edo State.
He did not grow up in Nigeria, however. Oyelowo grew up in South London until he was six and then his family moved to Lagos State, where his parents worked for the government.
Oyelowo attended a ‘military-style’ boarding school in Nigeria but his family eventually returned to London when Oyelowo was fourteen.
David Oyelowo has also given back to Nigeria, however. In 2018, he announced that he awarded scholarships to five Chibok girls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram, taking to Instagram to share the news.
His breakout role was in a stage appearance in 1999 when he was offered a role in Ben Jonson’s Volpone.
4. John Boyega
John Adedayo Bamidele Adegboyega, known simply as John Boyega, is a British-Nigerian actor and producer.
The movie role that first made him popular was that of Moses in the sci-fi comedy film, Attack the Block. Now, he is best known for playing Finn in the Star Wars sequel trilogy films The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, and The Rise of Skywalker.
Those are not his only acting credits. He has also been in the movies, Imperial Dreams, Detroit, Pacific Rim: Uprising, and four episodes of the television series 24: Live Another Day.
For his incredible work, Boyega even received the BAFTA Rising Star Award in 2016.
Boyega was born in Peckham, London on 17 March 1992 to Nigerian parents. He is the son of Abigail (née Aboderin) and Samson Adegboyega, a Pentecostal minister.
John Boyega’s parents are both from the Yoruba tribe in Nigeria. He first ventured into acting in primary school where he played a Leopard in a play.
While acting in another play in school, aged nine, Boyega was noticed by Teresa Early, the artistic director of Theatre Peckham, a learning theatre for young people who live in south London.
While Boyega’s father wanted Boyega to become a minister like himself, he supported his son’s desire to go into acting. Boyega’s breakout role was on stage in Six Parties at the National Theatre before being cast in 2011’s Attack the Block.
Boyega takes every chance to show off his Nigerian roots. His Instagram page is filled with several pictures and videos of himself and his sisters trying on Nigerian dishes.
He has even announced his plan to contribute to Nollywood by investing in the industry, making a number of movies. The most standout moment for him as a Nigerian, however, is when the film star and his family dressed in traditional Nigerian outfits for the premiere of Star Wars.
5. Nonso Anozie
Nonso Anozie is a British actor with a diverse career: he has worked on stage, film, and television. His full name is Chukwunonso Nwachukwu Anozie.
His most well-known roles are in the movies, RocknRolla, Ender’s Game, Zoo, Cinderella and HBO television series Game of Thrones.
It is highly likely that those who watch a lot of Hollywood movies would have com across Anozie in at least, one of these movies.
Well, Anozie was born in London, England and is from Nigeria, the Igbo tribe to be exact. This is fairly obvious, going by his name.
He graduated from the Central School of Speech and Drama in 2002. In the same year, he played the title role in William Shakespeare’s King Lear, becoming the youngest person to do so.
Anozie has also earned a number of accolades for his work, including the Ian Charleson Award in 2004 for his performance in Othello.
6. Hakeem Kae-Kazim
Hakeem Kae-Kazim is a British-Nigerian actor who has appeared in a handful of movies so far.
The actor is best known for his work in the Starz television series Black Sails and for his role as Georges Rutaganda in the 2004 drama film, Hotel Rwanda.
Well, Kae-Kazim was born in Lagos, Nigeria, which is where he lived for the first few years of his life before his family relocated to London, England.
He discovered his love for acting when he was in school and was required to participate in school plays.
He also joined The National Youth Theatre, and this is where he discovered that he loved theatre and acting. He proceeded to train at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, before joining The Royal Shakespeare Company, where he continued his training.
The film that got him international recognition was the critically acclaimed and Oscar-nominated film Hotel Rwanda, where he played the role of Georges Rutaganda.
7. Uzo Aduba
Uzoamaka Nwanneka Aduba, known simply as Uzo Aduba, is an American actress who attained international recognition for her role as Suzanne ‘Crazy Eyes’ Warren on the Netflix original series Orange Is the New Black.
She earned a number of accolades for this role, including an Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series, an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, and two Screen Actors Guild Awards for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series.
She has also broken a number of records, as she is one of only two actors to win an Emmy Award in both the comedy and drama categories for the same role, the other being Ed Asner for the character Lou Grant.
She has also appeared in other movies like American Pastoral, Showing Roots, My Little Pony: The Movie, Candy Jar and Miss Virginia. In 2020, she played Shirley Chisholm in the Hulu miniseries, Mrs. America.
Now, for the most interesting part: Uzo Aduba was born in Boston, Massachusetts to Nigerian parents. This means that both of her parents are from Nigeria, the Igbo part of the country, precisely.
She has contributed directly to Nigeria – on Activate: The Global Citizen Movement, she spoke about how she tried to get Governors in Nigeria to contribute to Nigeria’s clean water problem.
While she started acting before that, Aduba first gained recognition for her acting in 2003, when her performance in Translations of Xhosa earned her a Helen Hayes Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Play.
8. Cynthia Erivo
Cynthia Onyedinmanasu Chinasaokwu Erivo, known simply as Cynthia Erivo, is an English actress, singer and songwriter.
She has earned a number of accolades for her work, including a Tony Award and a Grammy Award, and has been nominated for two Academy Awards.
Erivo started her acting career with a 2011 stage production of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. She, however, got her first screen role in the British television series Chewing Gum.
Erivo started actively appearing in movies in 2018, with roles in the heist film Widows and the thriller Bad Times at the El Royale. Her most high profile role was when she played the abolitionist Harriet Tubman in the 2019 biopic, Harriet.
For her performance in this movie, Erivo earned Academy Award nominations for Best Actress and Best Original Song. She has also earned her place among the top film stars in both America and Britain.
Now for the most interesting part: Erivo was born to Nigerian parents in Stockwell, South London. She has spoken about her Nigerian roots, most recently in 2020 while speaking about the Nigerian male ballet dancer, Anthony Mmesoma Madu, who went viral online.
“They’re in Nigeria. I happen to be Nigerian as well. And I was like, this felt like a kismet moment,” the actress told NBC News. “I think it’s extremely important because I think boys are not encouraged to do this incredibly hard craft that actually encourages strength and stamina and beauty.”
9. Megalyn Echikunwoke
Ebubennem Megalyn Ann Echikunwoke, simply known as Megalyn Echikunwoke is an American actress, popular for her roles in television and film. Like everyone else on this list, she was born to Nigerian parents.
Megalyn was born in Spokane, Washington and was discovered while performing in a theatrical production for an arts academy. After this, very little time was wasted and she started working professionally at the age of 15.
Megalyn’s first project was appearing on an episode of The Steve Harvey Show.
She has been in several movies, including the Fox series 24, ER, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, That ’70s Show, The 4400, 90210 and House of Lies, among other projects.
She has also appeared in Whit Stillman’s Damsels in Distress, the action sequel A Good Day to Die Hard, the Arrowverse, CHiPs, An Actor Prepares. She also starred in the popular 2018 comedy Night School. In late 2018, Megalyn made her New York stage debut in Apologia.
Now for the interesting part: Megalyn Echikunwoke was born in Washington, United States to Onigwe Echikunwoke, an Igbo Nigerian father, and Anita Laurie, an American of European descent. Her father was an immigrant to the United States who survived the Nigerian Civil War.
Her father died when she was four years old and after, her native American mother raised Megalyn and her siblings on the Navajo Indian reservation in Chinle, Arizona.
In an article for Oxfam America, she cited her Nigerian heritage and called for donations for the UN in order to fight hunger in different parts of the world.
She got her entry into acting aged 14 when she was discovered while performing in a theatre production at an arts academy summer camp. Since then, she has steadily climbed her way up to become among the notable film stars in the world.
10. Yvonne Orji
Yvonne Anuli Orji, known simply as Yvonne Orji is a Nigerian-American actress and comedian who never misses an opportunity to show off her Nigerian roots.
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Meeeeeeaaann. My heart is so full. Had to call the parentals… and they DID. NOT. DISAPPOINT. They had jokes, prophesies and praises. #WhatAreTheSmallOnesMom #ThatLastVideoBrokeMe #iGotNoTearDuctsLeft #AllTheDMXinLeftWithDaQuickness #EmmyNominated #InsecureHBO #BUTGod!!!! #LETSGOFAM!!!!
Her most high profile role is in the television series, Insecure for which she has received a number of accolades including being nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award and three NAACP Image Awards.
Yvonne Orji was born in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria, but she grew up in Maryland, United States.
Before she found her way to comedy and acting, she received a master’s degree in public health at George Washington University.
She was inspired to do comedy as a graduate student when she performed stand-up comedy in the talent portion of a beauty pageant.
In 2009, after she finished graduate school, Yvonne moved to New York to pursue a career in comedy. Since then, she has achieved quite a number of things with her talent, including, most recently, an HBO special that takes fans all the way back to her roots in Nigeria.
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???????????? Naija made me??America raised me?? So it was only right that for my first @hbo comedy special, I PUT ON for both of my homes. What a moment it was to bring cameras all the way to Lagos AND deep in the village to get a sneak peak into the family that birth my funny. And then finally bringing it full circle to the DMV and taping in front two sold-out crowds at the Howard Theater. It’s been a LOOOONG journey, but how sweet it is, to finally be able to say, #MOMMAiMadeIt!
In 2015, she successfully secured the role of Molly on Insecure without an agent or any real acting experience. Now, that is black excellence.
Nigerians are exceptionally talented people, no matter where they may be, and they always excel at whatever it is that they do. This list of talented Nigerian film stars who have successfully carved a niche for themselves in Hollywood proves that.
Now, when you see any of these film stars on your TV screen, you can proudly say that they are Nigerians.
Which of these Nigerian film stars did you already know was Nigerian? Don’t forget to share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.