And, while we love Idris Elba—seriously, how could you not?—there’s plenty of UK talent working in Hollywood that we often overlook, some who recently catapulted into the limelight, and others we’re ready to see more of on our screens.
Scroll down to check out a list of familiar and not-so-familiar faces. Plus, be sure to join us as we check in with talented Black British stars from some of your favorite films and television shows like Bridgerton and For Life and more during the second-annual ESSENCE Hollywood House, streaming on ESSENCE Studios on April 23 at 7PM EST.
Let the record show that Damson Idris has been a star since Farming. No shots to the return of Snowfall, but after last season’s cliffhanger, be prepared for everyone to swear they were a fan of the South East London boy whose done well on-screen. His ambitions to follow in the path of the “great Denzel Washington” seem more than possible since Idris has stepped into leading man action hero status with roles in Outside the Wire with Anthony Mackie and as Marcus Corell in the space-centered video game, Squadron 42.
Regé-Jean Page, who was born in Zimbabwe and moved to London when he was 14, currently stars in Shonda Rhimes’ royal treat Bridgerton as the Duke of Hastings, Simon Bassett.
In 2020 alone, Kingsley Ben-Adir graced us with staggering performances in Soulmates, The Comey Rule, High Fidelity and this month’s One Night in Miami, where he stars as Malcolm X.
In Steve McQueen’s Small Axe film Lovers Rock, Micheal Ward saves the day at a 1980s blues party. But many will recognize him from Top Boy, the U.K.’s answer to The Wire.
Photo Credit: Parisa Taghizedeh / Amazon Prime Video
Even though he was tapped by 50 Cent to play inmate-turned-prosecutor Aaron Wallace in ABC’s For Life, Pinnock cut his teeth on British stages. He won rave reviews for outstanding performance in “Ear for Eye” at the Royal Court in London in 2018.
In the states, Malachi Kirby made a name for himself in the 2016 remake of Roots, where he starred as Kunta Kente. Last month, he portrayed real-life British activist Darcus Howe, one of the Mangrove 9, in Steve McQueen’s retelling of the highly publicized case that arguably kicked off the the civil rights movement in the United Kingdom.
Photo Credit: Des Willie / Amazon Prime Video
John Boyega broke Hollywood barriers from the moment he appeared as Finn in the last three Star Wars films. But it was the Nigerian-Brit’s fiery support of Black Lives Matter that forever cemented him as one of our global faves.
Wiktor Szymanowicz/Barcroft Media via Getty Images
Oh, you know you know Delroy Lindo. The British-American Tony-Nominated actor has appeared in Crooklyn, Malcolm X, Gone in 60 Seconds and appeared in Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods.
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After blockbuster runs in Get Out, Black Panther and Queen & Slim, Kaluuya makes a return to the big screen as Fred Hampton in the highly anticipated Judas and the Black Messiah. The Black Panther biopic arrives February 12, 2021.
In Bridgerton, Martins Imhangbe stars as Will Mondrich, Regé-Jean Page’s sparring partner and confidant. His character, based on real-life boxer Bill Richmond, Imhangbe told Shondaland.com, “I became obsessed with this man, just thinking about the courage and the tenacity it must’ve taken to achieve such a vision.” On stage in London, has starred in Lionboy, Absolute Hell, An Adventure and most recently, The Death of a Salesman.
Martins Imhangbe (with Emma Naomi) in Bridgerton | LIAM DANIEL/NETFLIX
Back in the U.K, Arinzé Kene has been heralded as one of “British theatre’s most exciting voices.” He broke ground with his play Misty in 2018 and last year he starred alongside Wendell C. Pierce in an all-Black revival of Death of a Salesman at the Young Vic in London. Recently, Kene can be seen in I’m Your Woman on Amazon Prime Video.
Whittle has us intrigued as Shadow on American Gods—the third season begins in January 2021. Before the UK-born (he has an English mother and Jamaican father) actor appeared in the Starz series, he made American audiences swoon in Mistresses and become a fan favorite on The CW’s The 100.
Michael’s snagged roles in Luther and cult fave Misfits. He also appeared on soaps like Casualty and EastEnders.
The BAFTA-winning comedian, writer and actor made us laugh until we cried on The IT Crowd and starred opposite Ben Stiller and Jonah Hill in 2012’s The Watch. Ayoade has a cult following in the U.S., but with such great comedic skill and writing he’s bound to receive a lot more attention soon.
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If you watched Game of Thrones, then you’ll recognize Jacob as Grey Worm. But, what you may not know is that the actor is an amazing rapper, going by the name Raleigh Ritchie. His debut album You’re a Man Now, Boy was released in 2016 and last May his latest single, “Aristocrats,” is the lead single for next album, Andy.
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The Scream Queens actor played Earl Grey – RIP Earl Grey, we loved you — in the bloody horror-comedy and appeared in everyone’s favorite UK drama Skins. He recently starred in several episodes of the short-lived series Katy Keene.
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Chiwetel’s list of roles and accomplishments is enviable. 12 Years A Slave, Kinky Boots, The Martian, an Oscar nomination, three Golden Globe nominations and a BAFTA win. And that’s not even the half of it.
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The Brit’s comedic skills have been put on display in Netflix’s Master of None and the UK’s coming-of-age comedy Some Girls. He played Jarrod Sands in the CBS show Limitless and fans of Arrow will know him as Walter Steele.
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UK audiences might recognize him from a number of shows like Casualty and EastEnders. And while he’s had it roles in US films like The Dark Knight and The Bourne Ultimatum, he’s long overdue for meatier roles in the US.
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Adrian is not only an amazing actor whose resume includes stellar theatre work — he won a Best Actor award from the Evening Standard Theatre Awards for his work in Othello and played Ellis Carter in Girlfriends, Joan’s love interest — he was also appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 2013 for his service to drama.
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Samuel played Crowther in the Royal National Theatre’s The History Boys, which had a run on Broadway. He’s appeared on Doctor Who and the UK soap Casualty.
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If the English actor has a familiar face, it’s because he’s appeared in Cloud Atlas, Interstellar, and starred in The CW miniseries Containment.
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Jimmy is another Arrow actor having appeared on the show as Baron Reiter. And, in 2008, he became the first black actor to play the role of Jimmy Porter in acclaimed playwright John Osborne’s Look Back In Anger. His brother, Sola, also happens to be head percussionist for Jamiroquai.
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Adewale’s resume includes turns as Killer Croc in Suicide Squad and Dave Duerson in Concussion. He’s also set to voice Captain Vervain in the highly-anticipated Watership Down miniseries.
2016 Karwai Tang
British actor David Oyelowo, most known for portraying Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma, is turning 41 on April 1.
Ameen played Capheus in the first season of Netflix hit Sense8 and landed roles in Lee Daniels’ The Butler, The Maze Runner, and Beyond the Lights. His first Hollywood film role was in Red Tails, the story of the African-American Tuskegee airmen in World War II.
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Ben Bailey Smith
The UK rapper and actor has made audiences laugh in the UK’s Murder in Successville and the English version of Drunk History. He often appears under his stage name Doc Brown and has released some awesome studio albums, EPS and singles. He also happens to be the brother of writer Zadie Smith.
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If you’ve seen this recent season of Black Mirror, you’ll recognize him from “Nosedive.” The actor also plays Fred in the criminally underrated British-American show Humans.
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Fans of Chicago Fire and Chicago P.D. know Eamonn as Wallace Boden, but the British actor is also known for his award-winning role on Oz as Kareem Saïd and his Broadway debut as Mark Antony in Julius Caesar alongside Denzel Washington.
Anglophiles might know Arinzé from Our Girl, Youngers, and the horror-comedy Crazyhead, but the British playwright’s recent role in The Pass really shows the actor’s range.
Nathan caught everyone’s attention in the massive UK hit show Misfits and later starred in the sci-fi drama Utopia. He’s also starred opposite Jude Law in Dom Hemingway.
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The Harry Potter alum currently plays Wes Gibbins on ABC’s How To Get Away With Murder and has received two NAACP Image Award nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series.
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British-Nigerian actor Zackary Momoh is most known for his role in the Netflix series Seven Seconds, but this Spring he was seen in the Sci-Fi drama The Nevers on HBO.
We’ve had our eye on Nick Sagar since The Princess Switch, but ever since the British Jamaican-Guyanese actor joined the cast of Run the World we haven’t been able to look away.
Top Boy star Ashley Walters totally has that mysterious bad boy image going for him and we’re here for it.