In celebration of the BFI Black Star Campaign, we wanted to look at some of the best and most promising Black British Actors currently making waves in the country and overseas. Below is our list of five actors that have carved their own respective lanes and deserve enormous credit:
1. Idris Elba
Born and raised in East London, to a Sierra Leonean father and Ghanaian mother, Idris Elba attended school in Canning Town where he first pursued his interest in acting. Several years later, the actor has gone on to establish himself as a household name not just in the UK, but also globally, picking up several awards and accolades along the way. Idris Elba undoubtedly deserves credit for the work he put into developing his career in his early years – after winning a £1,500 Prince’s Trust grant which enabled him to attend the National Music Theatre.
Starting his acting career in soap opera Family Affairs and television serial Ultraviolet, Idris Elba began to gain momentum before seeing his career really take off after appearing as “Stringer” on the HBO series The Wire. This led to a number of critically acclaimed movie appearances such as his leading role in movie Obsessed, alongside Beyoncé. Today, Idris Elba is most well known for his character “DCI John Luther” on the BBC One series Luther.
2. Arnold Oceng
British Ugandan Born Actor Arnold Oceng was raised in south London (Brixton) and started acting in the UK when he was only 6 years of age. Arnold made a name for himself early, by playing the part of schoolboy Calvin in BBC’s well-renowned series Grange Hill. He spent nearly six years amongst the cast and didn’t appear out of place despite such a fledgling career. Arnold produced a great quote which summed the hustle after these early years; “Sometimes you think, ‘Let me just get a conventional 9-5 job. At least that way the money will be there every month. That’s one thing about this industry, you’re going to be knocking on so many doors. You’ll have to get through quite a few rejections before you get that ‘yes’”.
Following starring roles in Adulthood and The Knot, as well as reoccurring roles in TV series Holby City and Casualty, the highlight of Arnold’s career was what followed in 2014, when he played the part of Mamere in Hollywood film The Good Lie, alongside Reese Wetherspoon.
3. Joivan Wade
Joivan was born in Lewisham, South London and made his acting debut in the BBC comedy Big School. Since then the talented performer has starred in UK drama Youngers on E4 and even more impressively He has been a popular face on the BBC with recurring roles in Doctor Who as “Rigsby” a young grafitti artist, and “Jordan Johnson” a returning character on Eastenders (Denise Fox’s step son). To others, Joivan may be better known for his part in hit online YouTube comedy series Mandem On The Wall.
Kayode was born in Elephant and Castle, London; as the middle child in an Anglo-Nigerian family. He attended City and Islington College which is where he triggered his love for drama and theatre. Following on from college, Kayode went on to study at Coventry University, where he initially sat a Journalism course, before switching to drama. Kayode’s God given talent began to shine at this point, as he graduated with first class honors from Coventry.
Whilst at school, Kayode befriended Tyrell Williams, who pitched him the idea of mockumentary Hood Documentary in which he plays “Reece Simpson” aka “R.S”. This hilarious character – played so well by Kayode, led to his stock rising almost immediately and his buzz on social media going through the roof. For someone who was a relatively unknown quantity, to build his profile up with his own resources – is something that will inspire many future aspiring actors.
Born to Ugandan parents, Kaluuya attended St Aloysius College in London. After landing a role as Reece in the BBC drama Shoot the Messenger, Kaluuya’s next role really saw him become a popular figure for young people. With a refreshingly candid portrayal of youth culture in the UK, Skins quickly picked up a huge following and Daniel was a major part of this – playing character “Posh Kenneth”, as well as contributing and being a head writer in the second and third series.
After Skins, Kaluuya began to build on his career, appearing as a guest star in a couple of well-received series such as Silent Witness, the Doctor Who special Planet of the Dead and Lewis. Going from strength to strength, he became a regular cast member in the ITV comedy FM and also as “Tea Leaf” in BBC’s dark comedy Psychoville. In 2015, Kaluuya played FBI agent Reggie Wayne in Sicario and is also about to star in brand new horror movie Get Out scheduled for release in February 2017.
Black Star is a celebration of the range, versatility and power of black actors in film and TV, taking place in cinemas at BFI Southbank and nationwide, on DVD and on BFI Player.
For more information on events and screenings, go to the Black Star website here –