While Hollywood seems to have fully embraced Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave, The Martian) and John Boyega (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Detroit), there are still a bunch of talented actors of Nigerian descent who continue to be underrated and underserved.
From the relatively unknown to the more popular ones, who still aren't getting the type of roles they deserve, we made a list of seven of the most talented British-Nigerian and Nigerian-American actors, who should be getting a lot more attention and work.
Adepero Oduye (Pariah, 12 Years a Slave)
Since her breakout role in Dee Ree’s 2011 acclaimed drama, Pariah — a performance even the great Meryl Streep called one of the best of that year – Adepero hasn’t been given another chance to properly shine.
While she’s had brief but memorable roles in Oscar-winning films like 12 Years a Slave and The Big Short, it seems the whole of Hollywood has forgotten just how immensely talented the Nigerian-American actress truly is.
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Lost, Suicide Squad)
Whether playing a drug dealer-tuned-priest on cult phenom, Lost, or a terrifying inmate on the acclaimed prison drama, Oz, Adewale has been imbuing his characters with unusual depth and charm for years.
So, why is he continually wasted in thankless film roles? Killer Croc in Suicide Squad being the most recent. Granted, he gets more work than most of the actors on this list, but he still hasn’t been given the chance to play a truly great character on the big screen.
Nonso Anozie (Game of Thrones, RocknRolla)
Oscar-nominated screenwriter of About a Boy and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Chris Weitz, called Nonso Anozie “one of the most promising and soulful young actors”, and we couldn’t agree more.
While he has spent most of his career playing the badass sidekick in movies like Conan The Barbarian and RocknRolla, his brief work as Xaro Xhoan Daxoson on Game of Thrones showed us a glimpse of his untapped leading man persona. Can Hollywood give him a movie to dominate already?
Dayo Okeniyi (The Hunger Games, Shades of Blue)
While fans of young adult movies will definitely recognise Dayo Okeniyi for his impressive work alongside Oscar winners, Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games and Brie Larson in The Spectacular Now, almost no one else will.
The Nigerian-American actor has been stuck fleshing out underwritten characters for most of his career. But his most recent role in the crime drama, Shades of Blue, alongside Jennifer Lopez and Ray Liotta, shows what the Nigerian-American can do with better-written parts
Sophie Okonedo (Hotel Rwanda, Dirty Pretty Things)
Even with an Oscar nomination (Hotel Rwanda) and a Tony win (A Raisin in the Sun) under her belt, the British-Nigerian thespian can’t seem to land the roles she deserves.
When she isn’t being wasted in terrible movies like After Earth, she is giving her all in TV movies no one ends up seeing. Well, let's hope her role in the upcoming Hellboy reboot is good enough to remind filmmakers just how incredible she is.
Sope Dirisu (Black Mirror, Humans)
While the British-Nigerian definitely has the leanest filmography of all the actors on this list — he is more of a stage actor — his talent is still very apparent in the little he’s done.
With his explosive, scene-stealing work in Black Mirror’s ‘Nosedive’ and his immaculate performance as a robot in the criminally underseen sci-fi series, Humans, Sope has proven he is capable of much more. Hollywood just needs to stop sleeping on him.
David Oyelowo (Selma, Queen of Katwe)
Perpetually great in everything he does, David Oyelowo is probably the most recognisable name on this list, but we still think he is incredibly underrated — maybe even more so than the others.
Although he’s consistently given star-making performances in movies like Selma and Queen of Katwe, Hollywood has continued to underutilize the British-Nigerian. Let’s hope he starts landing more quality roles soon; he really should have gotten at least an Oscar nomination by now.