12 African stars in international series and movies
These stars hail from across the African continent – from South Africa to Rwanda, from Nigeria to Zimbabwe to Kenya – and you’ll not only find them in shows from their motherland, but in these big-title series and movies on internet TV, too.
She may have been born in Mexico City, but her parents are both Kenyan, and she was raised there from the age of one. Lupita got her big break in 12 Years A Slave, for which she won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 2014.
Lupita stars opposite Winston Duke and Elisabeth Moss in this creepy Jordan Peele horror flick A family’s beach holiday turns into a terrifying nightmare when their doppelgangers show up in the middle of the night and begin to terrorise them. Us is on Showmax until 28 May 2021, and it lands on Netflix the following day.
You’ll also find her in the 2014 short romantic-drama movie The Roadside.
Thuso Mbedu: South Africa – The Underground Railroad, Amazon Prime
Thuso is a two-time international Emmy nominee for her role in Is’Thunzi (Seasons 1 and 2 are available to binge-watch on Showmax), and she was recently cast in the lead role of Cora for the highly anticipated Amazon Prime series based on Colson Whitehead’s bestselling novel, The Underground Railroad.
The series is directed by Oscar winner Barry Jenkins (Moonlight), and chronicles the journey to freedom of young Cora in the American South in the years leading up to the Civil War.
Masali Baduza: South Africa – Noughts + Crosses, Showmax
Based on Malorie Blackman’s YA novels, this series takes place in a dystopian alternate history, where the black “Cross” people rule over white “Noughts”. Masali, who was born in East London, plays Sephy, from an elite Cross family, who falls in love with Callum (Jack Rowan), a white Nought who is swept along in the tide of a revolution against the status quo.
Bonnie Mbuli, another South African, plays Sephy’s mother, Jasmine,.
You’ll also see Masali in local series Trackers, based on the Deon Meyer novel, as Thandi Makebe.
Ncuti Gatwa: Rwanda – Sex Education, Netflix + The Last Letter From Your Lover, Netflix
Ncuti was nominated for a BAFTA for his role as gay teen Eddie, Otis’s best friend, in the British comedy series currently on Netflix. He was born in Kigali in Rwanda, but was raised in Scotland after his family fled the genocide when Eddie was a toddler. He won the Young Scot Award for Entertainment in 2020.
Ncuti is also in the film adaptation of JoJo Moyes’s Last Letter From Your Lover, now on Netflix, alongside Joe Alwyn and Felicity Jones.
Langley was born in the UK but grew up in South Africa, and has made a name for himself not only as an actor but as a top-10 Ironman triathlete.
He plays Walter Buckley, the Deputy Mayor of San Francisco, who is deeply involved in the Tong Wars of the 1800s in HBO’s Warrior, which was filmed in Cape Town. The gritty series follows Ah Sahm, a martial arts prodigy from China who becomes mixed up in the world of organised crime.
You’ll also Langley him in HBO’s violent action series Banshee, as Colonel Douglas Stowe, and in the family movie Mia and the White Lion. He’s currently starring in M-Net’s new drama, Inconceivable, as James Bishop, a devoted husband and father.
Born in Port Harcourt in Nigeria, Yvonne has been making her home country proud since 2016, when she hit screens as Molly in HBO’s Insecure, alongside creator and star Issa Rae.
Yvonne’s stand-up special, also produced by HBO, called Momma, I Made It! pokes fun at her strict Nigerian-American upbringing and shares her unique journey from studying pre-med to ending up in comedy. She also takes us along to Lagos to meet her family. As she told the New York Times: ““I wanted to include Nigeria in the show because there’s no way I could tell my story without showing you where I came from.”
You’ll also see her in A Black Lady Sketch Show on Showmax.
Jessica Sutton: South Africa – Rogue, Showmax, and The Kissing Booth (2018), Netflix
In Netflix’s 2018 romcom The Kissing Booth, the Capetonian stars as Mia, who schemes to get closer to heartthrobNoah (Jacob Elordi) by pretending to like his younger brother, Lee.
Jessica also starred alongside Megan Fox in the Showmax co-production, Rogue.
Sibongile Mlambo: Zimbabwe and South Africa – Lovecraft Country, Showmax
Sibongile appears in HBO’s smash-hit horror series Lovecraft Country – all episodes are on Showmax.
Weruche Opia: Nigeria – I May Destroy You, Showmax
Nigerian actress Weruche Opia stars alongside BAFTA winner Michaela Coel in I May Destroy You (new episodes land on Showmax every Wednesday). The hit HBO series centres on Arabella, a witty, carefree and successful young Londoner with a break-out writing career, great friends and a some-time hook-up in Italy. When her drink is spiked with a date-rape drug in a nightclub, Arabella is forced to reassess every aspect of her life: her career, her friends, and even her family.
Weruche plays Arabella’s devoted, fun-loving BFF, Terry, who’s struggling to get her acting career off the ground. In real life, Weruche is the daughter of veteran Nigerian broadcaster and longtime Nightline host, Ruth Benamaisia Opia. Born and raised in Lagos, Weruche moved to London at 14, where her father, Eric Opia, was a professor.
“I am happy to be part of something that I honestly believe will make a change,” she told Elle. “A lot of people are asking how I feel and whether I’m getting a lot of love and that’s all cute but, as cliché as it sounds, I want to do work that changes and affects people, and makes a difference.”
You’ll also see Weruchi in Dérè: An African Tale on Netflix.
Wunmi Mosaku, Nigeria – Lovecraft Country, Showmax
Based on Matt Ruff’s 2016 novel of the same name, the striking horror series takes us back to the Jim Crow era in the 1950s. Atticus “Tic” Freeman, played by up-and-coming actor Jonathan Majors, returns from Korea to his hometown in search of his missing father. He teams up with his uncle George (Courtney B Vance) and friend Letitia “Leti” Dandridge (Jurnee Smollett) as they travel through segregated America.
Wunmi plays Ruby Baptista, Leti’s older half-sister who has ground her way through life. The relationship between the sisters is not exactly peachy.
All episodes are available on Showmax.
You’ll also see Wunmi in Netflix’s The End of the F**king World as DC Teri Donoghue, the hardened detective who’s tracking down the runaway teens.
Edi Gathegi: Kenya – Briarpatch, Showmax
He’s the most prolific Hollywood actor from Kenya – how many other stars do we know who could play the nomadic vampire Laurent in the Twilight Saga film series, the mutant Darwin in X Men: First Class, the Mormon doctor in House (the full boxset is on Showmax), as well as a mobster in the tech crime drama Start Up?
And that’s not to mention Edi’s most recent role, in which he plays the estate attorney AD Singe in Sam Esmail’s crime series Briarpatch, now streaming on Showmax. High-powered investigator Allegra Dill (Rosario Dawson) returns to her hometown to solve the mystery of her sister’s death. uncovering a web of corruption and deceit. Edi’s character used to be friends with Allegra’s sister, and is willing to get on-side with the investigator, who has no interest in making friends.
Nomzamo Mbatha: South Africa – Coming 2 America, Netflix
For seven years, actress Nomzamo Mbatha captivated South African audiences as Thandeka on the popular local telenovela Isibaya. In 2019, Nomzamo moved to Tinsel Town, and this year, her sacrifice of leaving home finally culminated in a big payoff, with her landing a role in the sequel to Eddie Murphy’s culturally iconic Coming to America (1988).
Coming 2 America (2021) sees Nomzamo alongside the likes of Leslie Jones, James Earl Jones and Wesley Snipes, with Nomzamo playing the role of the royal hairdresser, Mirembe.