In the last 5 years, Black British actors have been instrumental to some of Hollywood and British blockbuster movies. From Star Wars to Black Panther and many more successful movies of this era. As 2019 draws to an end, we bring you some of the most influential, most popular and relevant actors of this year, whether it’s TV appearances, advertisements, movies or all-round familiar. Here are the top 10 Black British actors of 2019.
Born Idrissa Akuna Elba to a Sierra Leone father, Winston and Ghanian Mother, Eve. The only son who would become a star actor was born and raised in London, England.
Idris Elba’s first had a go at acting in Canning Town where he attended school before dropping out. Idriss supported himself while pursuing his dream career in acting working menial jobs such as cold call advertising sales and DJing under the nickname – Big Driis at the age of 19.
Elba had his first breakthrough roles acting on the soap opera – Family Affairs in 1997, the television serial, Ultraviolet -1998, and the medical drama Dangerfield – 1995.
He is however best known for the roles in – Drug baron Russell “Stringer” Bell on the HBO series The Wire (2002), as DCI John Luther on the BBC One series Luther (2010), and as Heimdall in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Idris Elba’s rise continued as he later starred in the films Daddy’s Little Girls (2007), Prom Night (2008), RocknRolla (2008), The Unborn (2009) and Obsessed (2009). He also appeared in the films American Gangster (2007), Takers (2010), Thor (2011), Prometheus (2012), Pacific Rim (2013), Thor: The Dark World (2013), Beasts of No Nation (2015) and Star Trek Beyond (2016). He voiced Chief Bogo in Zootropolis (2016), Shere Khan in The Jungle Book (2016), and Fluke in Finding Dory (2016).
Best Known Quote:
Speaking on being considered a sex symbol, he said, “Look, when I wasn’t on television or in films, I didn’t get any special attention when I went out. Some beautiful people always attract attention. I didn’t until I got on television. So I’m on these lists only because I’m on television. It happens to me all the time, still. I’ll sit in a pub and nobody will recognize me. I might see an attractive woman, but she doesn’t recognize me, so I’m not getting any love. Then one person goes, “Oh, it’s you,” and suddenly, they all over-hear and start asking questions. It’s bullshit.”
Thandie Newton was born in London to a Zimbabwean mother, Nyasha, a health-care worker from the Shona tribe, and a British father, Nick Newton, a lab technician.
Thandie grew up in Zambia and later returned to the UK due to political unrest. At a young age, she enrolled in London’s Art Educational School, where she studied modern dance but later quit dancing because of a back injury. Having quit dancing, Thandie began auditioning for films and she received her first role in John Duigan’s Flirting in (1991).
Later, Thandie moved to Los Angeles, California, to pursue acting and she will later also return to Britain having faced discrimination because of her accent. Newton went to Cambridge University graduating with a degree in anthropology. Between semesters, she continued her acting and became noticed and in-demand for future film roles.
Best Known for:
The British star actress is known for her starring roles, such as the title character in Beloved (1998), Nyah Nordoff-Hall in Mission: Impossible 2 (2000), Christine in Crash (2004), for which she received a BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Linda in The Pursuit of Happyness (2006), Condoleezza Rice in W. (2008), Laura Wilson in 2012 (2009), and Val in Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018).
Since 2016, Newton has played the sentient android, the madam Maeve Millay, in the HBO science fiction-western series Westworld, for which she earned a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series and two Critics Choice Awards, as well as a Golden Globe Award, Saturn Award, and Screen Actors Guild Award nominations. In 2017, she portrayed DCI Roz Huntley in the BBC drama series Line of Duty, which earned her a nomination for the British Academy Television Award for Best Actress.
Newton was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2019 New Year Honours for services to film and to charity.
Best Known Quotes.
I use the film industry as a pleasure for work and that kind of thing and it’s not a pursuit to make me feel happy in my life.
Having children is life-changing, to state the obvious. It’s a gigantic shift in your life and I welcomed it. Not to put too fine a point on it, there’s something about the shame that goes with sexual exploitation, deviance, whatever. As a woman, having a baby psychologically erases it all from your body. And that, for me, was incredibly important.
I don’t put the pressure on myself to be a very successful movie star. I want to enjoy being an actor and I want to be challenged by the roles I take. What is lovely is that I’ll get sent a small movie, and you know that by virtue of me being involved they get their money and that’s fantastic.
Born and raised in Peckham, South-east London. John Boyega is a son to Nigerian Immigrant parents; Pentecostal preacher father and mother who works with the disabled. Full name – John Adedayo B. Adegboyega
He began acting at Theatre Peckham, a local performing arts centre in London for talented children aged 9 to 14. He spent almost every day after school at the theatre, as well as weekends. At 16, he moved to South Thames College to study performing arts and joined the Identity School of Acting in Hackney. He enrolled at Greenwich University but as his career took off, he left to concentrate on acting.
John’s breakthrough role came in 2011 for his role as Moses in the sci-fi comedy film, Attack the Block.
Best Known for:
He is however best known for his work as Finn in the seventh film of the Star Wars series.
John Boyega’s rise continued as he later starred in the historical fiction drama film Half of a Yellow Sun (2013), four episodes of the television series 24: Live Another Day (2014), and the drama films Imperial Dreams (2014), The Circle (2017), and Detroit (2017).
Best Known Quote
“My dad’s a Pentecostal minister, meaning that he’s full of charisma. If he’s telling a story about Noah’s ark, you best know each tiger is going to be having their own little conversation and narrative.”
Born in London, England, Naomie Harris is the only child to television scriptwriter mother, Lisselle Kayla the only child to Trinidadian father and Jamaican mother. Naomie’s parents however separated before she was born, and was raised by her mother alone, and has no relationship with her father.
Harris showed an interest in acting from an early age and attended the prestigious Anna Scher Theatre School. From here, Harris won roles in various projects, such as Simon and the Witch (1987) and The Tomorrow People (1992). She went on to study social and political sciences at Pembroke College, Cambridge University, an experience she “did not enjoy.” After graduating from the University, Harris trained at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.
Acting success soon followed and her breakthrough film role came in Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later… (2002). Other notable projects include Miami Vice (2006) and Small Island (2009) (for which she was named best female actor by the Royal Television Society). Harris also won fans for her role as voodoo witch Tia Dalma in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006) and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007), and further international attention came her way when she played field agent Eve Moneypenny in the James Bond film Skyfall (2012).
Naomie was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the drama Moonlight (2016), which won the Best Picture Oscar, that year.
Naomie Harris was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Queen Elizabeth II in the 2017 New Years Honours for her services to drama.
Best Known Quote
I’ve always said that I want to base my career choices on portraying positive images of black women, and I thought I would never, ever want to play a stereotypical role, because there are enough of them out there. And I’ve always said I will never play a crack addict.
Letitia Michelle Wright is a Guyanese-English actress. She was born in Georgetown, Guyana, and moved to London, England, when she was seven. She grew up in Tottenham.
Beginning her professional career in 2011, she has played roles in several British TV series, including Top Boy, Coming Up, Chasing Shadows, Humans.
She performed in school plays as a child before moving on to attend the Identity School of Acting, enrolling at the age of 16.
In 2011, Letitia made her first breakthrough appearance in two episodes of Holby City and Top Boy. In 2012, she had a small role in My Brother the Devil. This role earned her recognition by Screen International as one of its 2012 Stars of Tomorrow.
Best Known For
She is best known for her role in the 2018 film, Black Panther where she co-starred, playing the role of Shuri, King T’Challa’s sister and princess of Wakanda.
Ms Wright landed her first lead role in Urban Hymn in 2015, and again, her role brought her to the attention of Hollywood. The same year, she appeared in an episode of Doctor Who, and the following year, she began a recurring role as Renie on Humans. During this time, she also appeared in the play Eclipsed on the West End. In 2017, Wright starred in the Black Mirror episode “Black Museum”; her performance earned her a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie.
Wright won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Breakthrough Performance in a Motion Picture for her work in the 2018 film, Black Panther and reprised the role in Avengers: Infinity War, which was released later that year. Also in 2018, Wright appeared as Reb in Steven Spielberg’s film adaptation of the 2011 science-fiction novel Ready Player One.
Best Known Quote.
Speaking on going through depression and her faith, she said, “I was in the dark going through so many bad things. I needed to take a break from acting and I went on a journey to discover my relationship with God, and I became a Christian.”
Daniel was born in Kentish Town, London to immigrant parents from Uganda- Damalie Namusoke and Stephen Kaluuya. His mother, Damalie, emigrated to the UK and gave birth to Daniel in London. She raised him on a council estate in Kentish Town, along with an older sister. His father lived in Uganda and rarely visited due to UK visa regulations. Kaluuya attended St Aloysius College, London.
He is also a writer and Arsenal fan as well as a Grime music lover
While still at school he was recruited as a contributor writer and actor for the critically acclaimed UK teen drama series Skins (2007). Shortly after, and while still in his teens, he was writing full hour-long episodes for the show, making him one of the youngest people ever to write an episode of primetime drama.
In 2010, Kaluuya played the lead role in Roy Williams’ Sucker Punch at the Royal Court Theatre in London and, in 2017, he landed the lead role in Get Out on the spot having nailed his audition.
His film debut was ‘Shoot the Messenger (2006)’.
He is best known for the films ‘Get Out (2017) and Black Panther (2018)’.
Best Known Quote:
“When work ends, I’d rather just be seen as Daniel – normal.”
“I’m dark-skinned. When I’m around black people, I’m made to feel ‘other’ because I’m dark-skinned. I’ve had to wrestle with that, with people going, ‘You’re too black.’ Then I come to America, and they say, ‘You’re not black enough.’”
“Racism is like a horror movie. Black kids die because of racism. I don’t know what’s more horrifying than that.”
Noel Clarke was born on December 6, 1975, in London, England as Noel Anthony Clarke. He is an actor and producer, known for Brotherhood (2016), Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) and Mute (2018). He is married to Iris Da-Silva. They have two children.
He is best known for playing Wyman Norris in Auf Wiedersehen, Pet and Mickey Smith in Doctor Who. Clarke appeared in and wrote the screenplay for Kidulthood and wrote, directed, and starred in the sequels, Adulthood and Brotherhood, which earned £1,209,319 during the opening weekend of its release.
He has had recurring television roles as Wyman Norris in the revived series of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet (2002–2004) and as Mickey Smith in the first two series of the revival of the BBC science-fiction series Doctor Who (2005–2006). He became the series’ first black companion in the episode “School Reunion”, and reprised his role as Mickey in the episode “Journey’s End” in 2008 and in 2010 in “The End of Time” Part 2, and also starred in the Doctor Who audio series Dalek Empire: The Fearless, which was released from September to December 2007. His other television work includes appearances in Casualty and Metrosexuality. He has also acted on the stage, and won the Laurence Olivier Award for “Most Promising Newcomer” in 2003 for his performance in the play Where Do We Live at the Royal Court Theatre. Clarke starred in the film Doghouse, directed by Jake West and produced by Carnaby Films International. The film was shot primarily in Midhurst, a small town in West Sussex, on the grounds of the old King Edward VII Hospital. He also participated in Neil Marshall’s film Centurion, about which Clarke said, “it’s about the Roman Legion and I’m one of the soldiers”.
Clarke began his writing career in 2005 when he wrote the screenplay for the film Kidulthood which was released in 2006. He also directed and starred in the sequel, Adulthood, which was released in 2008.
Clarke studied Media at the University of North London before going on to take acting classes at London’s Actors Centre. Clarke won the Laurence Olivier Award for Most Promising Performer in 2003 and was awarded a BAFTA Orange Rising Star Award in 2009
Best Known quotes
I just started to write because I was fed up of not seeing the stories that I wanted, so I was like ‘Stop moaning and write something.’
. On directing his first film, Clarke described his experience, “Directing for the first time was definitely a challenge and tiring at times. It was a steep learning curve and if you’re willing to do stuff and go with it, then it pays off.
I couldn’t tell you the ratio, but probably for every job you see me do, there would be 20 rejections.
I did ‘Kidulthood’ and ‘Adulthood,’ and that’s what people wanted and expect me to always do. They want me to do ‘hood films and be the guy swinging baseball bats and saying ‘Yo Blood’ and beating up others in the street.
People can criticise me all day long. It just washes off me. You might as well be talking to a wall.
Richard Ellef Ayoade was born in England, to a Norwegian mother, Dagny Amalie (Baassuik), and a Nigerian father, Layide Ade Laditi Ayoade. He studied Law at Cambridge University and followed in the footsteps of British Comedy legends like Monty Python’s 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) a parody of schlocky 1980’s science fiction television shows, and noticed for it’s “so bad it’s good!” aesthetic. Notably shy and self-effacing in interviews, his performance as the debauched, self-assured publisher/pornographer/nightclub owner ‘Dean Learner’ showcased the young comedian’s acting talent.
After cameos in another cult series The Mighty Boosh (2003) as the shaman “Saboo”, his position in the popular consciousness was cemented in the series The IT Crowd (2006) where Ayoade played the social oblivious, dweebish savant known as “Moss”.
All the while Ayoade continued to direct music videos for Vampire Weekend, Kasabian, and the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs before finally getting his chance to direct a feature film, Submarine (2010), based on the novel by Joe Dunthorne.
Best Known Quotes:
I’ve only ever really been in shows of friends, so I don’t know exactly what happened. I think I’m incredibly cheap to hire. That can buy some traction. I’m as cheap as it’s possible for an actor to be legal.
I find performing very difficult. It’s difficult to be a good actor. I get very nervous, even though it sounds disingenuous because you could legitimately go, ‘Well, why do it?’
I’m not sure I’d hire myself in anything. I certainly couldn’t be an actor. That would be terrible for everyone.
Walters was born in Peckham, South-East London, to Guyanese parents. He was raised by his mother, Pamela Case, a local government officer. He is a father of seven children.
He attended St. George’s CE Primary School, Camberwell, from the age of four and later went on to Pimlico School, now known as Pimlico Academy.
Having undertaken classes at the Sylvia Young Theatre School, after leaving school Walters starred in some stage productions.
Ashley has been a regular face on British TV since early 2000, appearing as Omar in The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles at the age of 10, and as Andy in Grange Hill at the age of 14. He appeared in Saul Dibb’s 2004 feature film Bullet Boy, where he played Ricky, a role for which Walters was named Best Newcomer at the British Independent Film Awards. He also appeared in 2005’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’.
In 2006, he played the role of Wolf in the film Stormbreaker and Danny in Life and Lyrics. In 2007, he starred in WΔZ, and in Sugarhouse. He played Lacey in the BBC Three drama pilot West 10 LDN. He played the character, Billy Bond, in five episodes of the fourth series of BBC TV drama Hustle. He also appeared in the MTV series Top Buzzer and played the role of Al B in the 2006 production House of 9.
He appeared in Outcasts in February and March 2011 and in October same year, Walters starred Demons Never Die and he also played Dushane in Channel 4’s four-part drama Top Boy. In February 2012, he played Chris in the BBC drama Inside Men. In 2013, Walters reprised his role as main character Dushane in the second series of Top Boy.
He is best known for Speed Racer (2008) and Bullet Boy (2004) and Bulletproof (2018)
Born Cynthia Chinasaokwu O. Erivo in Lambeth, London, to Nigerian parents. She attended La Retraite Roman Catholic Girls’ School. She began a music psychology degree at the University of East London; however, dropped out a year later to seek admission at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art where she later trained.
She is known for her performance as Celie in the Broadway revival of The Color Purple.
In March 2017, Erivo and the cast of The Color Purple were nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award for their performance on NBC’s The Today Show in May 2016. In April 2017, it was announced that Erivo and the cast of The Color Purple alongside The Today Show won the Daytime Creative Arts Emmy Award in the Outstanding Musical Performance in a Daytime Program category.
In November 2017 she appeared on the charity benefit “Night of Too Many Stars” hosted by Jon Stewart, where she performed a duet with frequent contributor Jodi DiPiazza of the Andra Day hit “Rise Up” they were accompanied by Questlove and The Roots.
Erivo portrayed the title role in Harriet, a biographical film about American abolitionist Harriet Tubman. The film began production in October 2018, completed filming in January 2019, and was released on November 1, 2019. Erivo will also appear in Chaos Walking, based on Patrick Ness’ trilogy novels, with release expected in 2020.
In January 2019, Erivo was cast in HBO’s series adaptation of Stephen King’s novel The Outsider. She is set to play the character of investigator Holly Gibney.
Best Known quotes.
Speaking on the backlash she’s had about her casting as Harriet Tubman, she tells metro – “But I understand where it’s coming from because I feel like it’s coming from a lack – we don’t get roles like this very often, roles like this don’t come along as often as they should, I’m hoping they’ll start to come along more often now.’
“I hope that this just means there are more stories about her that will be told, we have 101 stories about Abraham Lincoln and stories about Margaret Thatcher and all these other stories about people in history,’ she explained. ‘There should be loads of stories told about Harriet. I’m hoping that one, people give it the benefit of the doubt and see the film and trust that I can do the job and do the work I’m supposed to do. ‘Because I think that’s the thing that confused me the most. I know my job is to tell the story first and foremost, and not necessarily stories that are specifically about me. ‘My job is to play the character and tell the truth of them.’