You may not know that Africa has its own smaller film industry often referred to as Nollywood, which once was reference to the film industry in Nigeria but now implies broader reach. These films began in the early ‘90s as video cameras became more accessible, allowing amateur creators to put together their own full-length features despite having a zero budget. Since then a select collection of actors have received local fame for their portrayal in many regional films, but what about those that made it to the big leagues in Los Angeles? Several actors who hail from Africa can be seen on the silver screen often, here are some you may recognise.
Known around the internet as a hilarious meme thanks to his debut role in the 2013 thriller Captain Phillips. Here Abdi played the Somali pirate Abduwali Muse who uses his cunning and violent persistence to capture a US craft. Born in Mogadishu, Abdi moved to the United States in 1999 but had an everyday life up until and shortly after his Hollywood role. Now he can be seen popping up in many films big and small including Sacha Baron-Cohen’s Grimsby, gritty crime flick Good Time and the highly acclaimed sequel Blade Runner 2049.
Another recent addition to the industry is this South African born funny man who shot to fame in the science fiction film District 9 by fellow South African Neil Blomkamp. Copley took on the fun yet troublesome role of Wikus van der Merwe who had to deal with alien refugees and his own personal troubles all at once, showing both the actor’s humorous side and his abilities in dramatic roles. Since then Copley has been the go-to South African (who’s accent in unmissable) in Hollywood and has featured in iconic roles such as Howling Mad Murdock in the A-Team movie, becoming a king in Disney film Maleficent and playing multiple roles in the first person action film Hardcore Henry.
One of those omnipresent actors on screen; Djimon Hounsou has secured some of the most unforgettable roles throughout his fruitful career. Whether you like huge Hollywood hits or cult films you will no doubt be accustomed to his shaved head and commanding deep voice. This academy award winner shook audiences with his role in the politically charged Blood Diamond alongside Hollywood royalty Leonardo DiCaprio. Hounsou also has a soft spot for Superhero films playing the main villain in Push, landing two roles in the DC Extended Universe while previously serving as Papa Midnite in Constantine, and starring as Korath the Pursuer in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Versatile and unpredictable actress Charlize Theron was born in South Africa and didn’t happen upon the US until 1994. From here her film career started rapidly as she secured places in Devil’s Advocate alongside Al Pacino and Keanu Reeves, shortly after taking up a lead role in Mighty Joe Young. She is known for her tenacity and has been in unconventional female leads in movies such as Aeon Flux, Hancock and the recent neon action Atomic Blonde. But Theron isn’t all about action and grit as she has shown in her role in TV comedy Arrested Development where she plays a hapless British girl who isn’t as switched on as her boyfriend believes.