Our Favorite Actors who Surprisingly Aren't American
A look at our five favorite Black British Actors
Though it may be hard to believe, some of our favorite “African-American” actors are not American at all, but British. If the true test of how talented an actor is remains his or her ability to convince us that he really is someone else, then the actors on this list are among Hollywood’s best, because for years they have convinced us they are New Yorkers, Chicagoans, or Southerners, not from a different continent altogether.
Below a look at some of our favorite black British actors.
Of course the first black actor to be seriously considered for the iconic role of “007,” aka, James Bond, is a brother with a British accent: Idris Elba. The England native, who is of Ghanaian and Sierra Leonian descent, has established himself as one of Hollywood’s hottest leading men, with roles in “The Wire,” “Daddy’s Little Girls,” and “American Gangster.” His status as a heartthrob has not gone unnoticed. He was named one of PEOPLE Magazine’s “Most Beautiful People” in 2007 and one of its "Sexiest Men Alive" in 2011.
Though best known to American fans for her portrayal of FBI Agent Vivian Johnson on the long-running series “Without a Trace,” Marianne Jean-Baptiste is a classically trained British actor. After studying at the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and later performing at the Royal National Theater, Jean-Baptiste became the first black British actress to be nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in “Secrets and Lies” in 1996. In a brief conversation with Loop 21 about her work and heritage (Jean-Baptiste is of Antiguan and St. Lucian descent) Jean-Baptiste said there are still plenty of fans that don’t know and refuse to believe that she is actually British. “I have had arguments with people about that,” she said with a very convincing and authentic British accent, followed by a laugh. “Some people still don’t believe it!”
Newton first gained Hollywood’s notice with her film debut in 1991. But Newton first gained widespread notice among black Americans when she was cast as the title character in Oprah Winfrey’s film adaptation of Toni Morrison’s “Beloved.” (In an example of art imitating life, Newton’s name means “beloved” in Zulu, Swazi and various other African dialects.) Newton has worked steadily since, in films like “The Pursuit of Happyness,” “W.” and as a spokesmodel for brands like Olay. She is the daughter of a Zimbabwean Shona princess and a white Englishman.
Lindo has been so convincing portraying quintessential Americans, like baseball great Satchel Paige in “Soul of the Game,” and the beleaguered but loving father in Spike Lee’s “Crooklyn,” that many of us never new Lindo wasn’t one. Born in Eltham, London to Jamaican parents Lindo spent his teen years in Canada before studying at San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater.
Best known to American audiences for his supporting roles in films like “The Inside Man,” and “Talk to Me,” Ejiofor is one of the most accomplished young actors to emerge in the United Kingdom in the last decade. Though not yet 35, Ejiofor has already been named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire. The honor is bestowed by the queen to those who have demonstrated extraordinary contributions to the United Kingdom, in a designated field. Ejiofor has also been awarded the Olivier Award (the English equivalent of the TONY Award) for Best Actor and been nominated for multiple Golden Globe Awards.