Black British actors: The next big thing

Brandi Hutchison | Staff Writer

For many years, African American actors from the UK have left their marks on Hollywood, especially the American film industry. These actors do nothing less of a phenomenal job in playing American roles. Their skillful performances in playing these roles of Black Americans tend to leave audiences in high praise and recognition.

One of the many talents to have bridged the gap for British black actors and actresses is Idris Elba. The UK native first appeared on the TV series Crimewatch. He later rose to fame after appearing on the television series The Wire, a show based on the street life in Baltimore. He’s starred in Luther and also made appearances in films such as Thor, Fast & Furious, The Suicide Squad, Takers, Beast of No Nation, No Good Deed, Obsessed, Daddy’s Little Girls, American Gangster and This Christmas.

He has been a trailblazer who has paved the way for young African American British actors of today’s time. More black British actors today are breaking into Hollywood by migrating to the United States to find their careers and defining roles. The emergence of these young actors offers new faces, new taste and new talent to the preference of the box offices.

A face that has been taking over screens with his tear-spilling eyes is Daniel Kaluuya. He is mostly known for his starring role in Jordan Peele’s Academy Award-winning satirical horror movie, Get Out. Kaluuya played the role of Chris Washington, a young African American man who spends the weekend filled with twists and turns meeting the parents of his white girlfriend, Rose Armitage. Kaluuya also recently starred in Melina Matsouka’s protest art film, Queen and Slim. The movie consists of a first date that takes a wrong turn after a policeman pulls Queen and Slim (Kaluuya) over for a traffic violation. The situation quickly escalates, resulting in Slim shooting the officer with his gun in self-defense, and the two decide to go on the run. Kaluuya also made an appearance in the Marvel movie Black Panther.

 “I was shocked when I found out that the star from Get Out was from London,” said Alexis Scott, a Hampton University master of business administration major from Washington, D.C. “You can definitely tell that he works on his craft. His dialect and American accent are spot-on. I like that he has the talent and the ability to take on the roles that portray the struggle and disadvantages African Americans face every day living in America.”

Alongside Kaluuya in Queen and Slim was Jodie Turner-Smith. Her breakout role represented a passionate, strong and empowering African American woman who so happened to be a lawyer and Slim’s love interest. 

The use of black British actresses doesn’t stop there. Gugu Mbatha-Raw is from Oxford, UK, and played the pressured superstar singer Noni in Beyond the Lights

Letitia Wright is a British-Guyanese actress who played the role of Shuri, the creative younger to sister to Chadwick Boseman in the Black Panther. Wright has also appeared in Guava Island, Avengers and on the Netflix series Black Mirror.

“It amazes me to see that people from all over can portray the roles of another culture, said Brittany Johns, an HU senior psychology major from Alexandria, Virginia. “Although they’re acting, they look so comfortable in their environment and characters that they’re portraying, almost as if it’s natural, like, that’s the real them.” 

Some more black British actors who appear on highly recognized works of art are Ashley Walter, Kano and Little Simz. They’re all actors on the British television crime drama series Top Boy, based in East London. Some may also recognize the face of Daniel Ezra, who plays Spencer James, the high school wide receiver football star in The CW series All American

Needless to say, British actors and actresses are taking Hollywood by storm.

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