If you didn’t know, Black British actors are taking over Hollywood! From Naomie Harris to David Oyelowo to Idris Elba, Black actors are crossing the pond and nabbing roles.
But are they roles that could have gone to African-American actors? Samuel L. Jackson certainly thinks so, and stirred up a little controversy while on Hot 97 earlier this week.
The veteran actor questioned Daniel Kaluuya’s role in Get Out, saying that an African-American actor may have been better suited for the role.
But one person who didn’t quite agree was British actor John Boyega. Boyega, who starred in the 2015 film Star Wars: The Force Awakens, tweeted a response to Jackson’s comments: “Black brits vs African American. A stupid ass conflict we don’t have time for.”
To Boyega’s point, there’s a need for more roles for BOTH British and American actors of color. But from the looks of things, the Brits are certainly working. Scroll down for 10 actors who stay nabbing what some may deem “African-American” roles.
The world fell in love with Idris Elba with his starring role as the Baltimore drug lord Stringer Bell on HBO’s The Wire. He has since tried to distance himself from the character, but instead has become an American heartthrob and bonafide movie star with roles in films like Thor, Star Trek Beyond and No Good Deed to name a few.
Gugu Mbatha-Raw first made her mark starring opposite Boris Kodjoe in the short-lived TV drama Undercovers. Later she would star in Belle, playing the mixed-race daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral and a Caribbean slave, and Beyond the Lights, playing an American pop star longing for a normal life.
Before Naomie Harris, Carmen Ejogo or Gugu Mbatha-Raw crossed the pond, Thandie Newton was taking over Hollywood as the new ‘it’ girl rivaling even Halle Berry. Her string of roles were less reflective of her British roots playing the ghost of a young slave girl in Beloved and as U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice in W.
Carmen Ejogo got her career started hosting Saturday Disney. She made her mark in the U.S. with roles in Sparkle opposite Whitney Houston and playing civil rights leader Coretta Scott King twice – in the films Selma and Boycott.
John Boyega, who is from South London, plays Finn in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. While the role is not American per se, given that the film unfolds in a distant galaxy, Finn speaks with an entirely convincing American accent. He’ll next be seen in Star Wars: Return of The Jedi.
Naomie Harris has played everything from a Bond-girl (Skyfall, Spectre) to Winnie Mandela (Mandela: A Long Walk To Freedom). But her most recent role playing a crack-addict mother in Moonlight nabbed her an Oscar nomination.
Chiwetel Ejiofor worked alongside Denzel Washington in both the Inside Man and American Gangster before nabbing the role of Solomon Northup, a free African-American who was abducted and enslaved in the mid-19th century, in the Oscar winning film 12 Years A Slave.
David Oyelowo toiled in smaller roles before landing the part of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the 2014 civil-rights drama Selma. Now a member of the Academy, Oyelowo says he’s hoping more films about people of color, women and other minorities get nominated in the future.
Marianne Jean-Baptiste gained international success from the Mike Leigh-directed social drama Secrets & Lies (1996). She received both Golden Globe and Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress nominations for her performance, becoming the first black British actress to be nominated for an Academy Award. Since she has been a mainstay on American TV, most notably for her role on Without A Trace.
Sophie Okonedo won a Tony Award in 2014 for playing the African-American character Ruth Winger in “A Raisin in the Sun” on Broadway. She describes herself as a Jewish, Nigerian Brit, but says she finds far more opportunities for roles in the United States than in Britain.