Antonia Thomas

15 Black British Actresses Making Major Moves

From acclaimed newcomers to award-winning veterans, this impressive group has taken the film and television industry by storm over the past decade

December 05, 2012


Some have accents coating their words, while others blend right in with their American counterparts. No matter which cadence escapes their lips, one thing remains true: Black British actresses are no less deserving of breakout roles in Hollywood films than their peers.

Take bombshell Naomie Harris, if you will. As the first Black actress to play the popular James Bond character Eve Moneypenny, Harris’s casting places a much needed spotlight on today’s Black British actresses, many of whom also experienced a similar boost in 2012.

“To cast the character of Eve, they auditioned all different races,” Harris told The Root. “I know that they did want someone with an ethnic background, but it didn’t matter whether they were Black or [Asian] or whatever. I’m really proud of the choices that [the producers] made. They are really progressive choices that are reflective of society today.”

The wide range of genres across which actresses like Carmen Ejogo, Ashley Madekwe, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Sophie Okonedo entertain both television and film viewers worldwide spans from blockbuster flicks like Sparkle to fresh new television series. As more and more beloved British TV shows like Fresh Meat, Misfits and Fast Girls begin to gain a steady U.S. following (thanks to Hulu and Netflix), Zawe Ashton, Antonia Thomas, Lenora Crichlow and other young newcomers have been able to readily tap into a once impossibly impenetrable fan base.

And then are the seasoned veterans, including Thandie Newton, Angel Coulby and the first Black, female Brit Academy Award nominee, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, who have been holding down the fort across the Atlantic for their fellow British sisters for years now.

“All my favorite actresses are women of color, and it saddens me that they’re not household names,” Fast Girls star Crichlow recently told the London Evening Standard. “But what a positive place to start from. The majority of our lead characters are Black females, representing their country, in strong, positive roles. It is something we should see more of.”

Patrice Peck explores the complex intersection of culture, entertainment, race and gender as a multimedia journalist. Follow her latest work on Twitter @SpeakPatrice and visit her website for more writing and video.



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