The Hollywood movie industry is booming and many young actors and actresses from Africa dream to be part of this industry but little do they know that many known celebrities in Hollywood are actually full blood Africans, with some growing up on the soil of Africa before making it to the diaspora.
At the mention of Lupita Nyongo, many Ghanaians assume she’s the best actress Africa has ever witnessed, but interestingly, Ghanaians have been in the Hollywood movie industry long before many other African countries made it to the industry – You remember Akosua Busia?
These days there’s been an influx of African-American actors in Hollywood and majority are Ghanaians, some you may know, some you may probably not know, so without wasting much of your time, here are 10 Hollywood celebs who are actually Ghanaians.
|Phanuel Nana Gbewonyo|
Phanuel Nana Gbewonyo, born in 1980 in Accra is a Ghanaian who left the shores of the country at the age of three, nationalized as an American and ended up starring in the hit movie “Gran Torino” and “Coach Carter”. He’s a good basketball player who played for his school when he was in high school. Gbewonyo played high school basketball at Kennedy High. He began his college career at College of the Canyons (Calif.), where he earned All-Western State Conference honors and was named the team’s Most Valuable Player as a sophomore in the 2000-01 season. He averaged 21 points and eight rebounds that season.
So how did a good basketball player end up as an actor? For him, it came as a surprise.
After his last HSU basketball game, an agent Gbewonyo had met in California tried to call him. The agent reached Zavier Lewis, a senior education major, and explained that the director of an upcoming movie called ‘Coach Carter’ was looking for a young male to act the part of a teenage basketball player.
The agent asked Lewis to help him reach Gbewonyo and see if he wanted the part. Soon Gbewonyo was on a plane back to his home state, where he filmed the movie.
Since then, he’s starred in many other movies, “Gran Torino” being one of them.
Sam is a Ghanaian born in the UK, an actor, producer, rapper and a model. Some of his film works include the Warner Brother comedy with Nick Cannon and Christina Milian “Love Don’t Cost a Thing”, the Gary Marshall comedy “Keeping Up with the Steins” with Jeremy Pivens and Darryl Hannah, and the Spike Lee drama “Sucker Free City” with Anthony Mackie and Omari Hardwick. Sam has also guest starred on such shows as “ER”, “The District”, “Boston Public”, “Navy NCIS”, and “Home Improvement”.
In 2001, Sam received an AFI Independent Film Award for Best Supporting actor for his portrayal as Louis in the movie “Street King” co-starring Jon Seda and Mario Lopez.
In 2005, Sam was named by Detour Magazine as “Young Hollywood’s One to Watch”. In 2007 Sam co-starred with Tony award winner Wilson Jermaine Heredia in the psychological thriller “Nailed” which was featured and made a buzz in the Cannes Film Festival and the Toronto Film Festival. His latest movie is ANCHOR BABY.
|3. Edris Elba|
Edris is no stranger to many Ghanaians and many of you reading this may probably know him. He’s been in the country a couple of times and even recorded a remix of “Selfie” with VVIP.
He’s half Ghanaian, half Sierra Leonean with his Ghanaian side coming from his mother. He’s starred in many Hollywood movies including the latest hit movie “Takers” which featured a lot of musicians and Hollywood stars. He also played the role of Mandela in the movie “Long Walk To Freedom”.
|4. Kwesi Boakye|
Meet 10-year-old Kwesi Boakye, Hollywood’s latest sensation. Already a veteran actor with an ever-growing resume and roles in several features including Tyler Perry’s “I Can Do Bad All By Myself” staring Academy Award nominee Taraji Henson.
He began his career in television commercials at just 10-months-old staring in a video for pre-school kids called “Tots on Tape”. A modeling gig in the worldwide Baby Gap campaign followed and it wasn’t long before Kwesi snagged his first casting role on the medical drama “Strong Medicine”.
Since then, he has appeared in a string of prominent television shows such as “Boston Legal”, “South Park”, “Daybreak” with Taye Diggs and the Daytime Soap Opera “Days of Our Lives”. He can also be seen as a series regular on the new Cartoon Network animated series “Gumball” voicing the character role of Darwin. He also voiced Andrew on the animated series “Special Agent Oso” although his most notable voice-over role was in the Oscar winning flick, “Happy Feet”. He is a Ghanaian born in America.
|5. Senyo Amoaku|
In one of the scenes of “Expendables”, rebels held some people hostage and the expendables were to rescue them, the leader asked, “who’s there?” and continued, “Did you bring the money?” well Amoaku is not the leader who spoke, he’s the gentleman on the left hand side of the leader who had a machete on the necks of one of the victims.
Aside that, Senyo Amoaku has appeared in three episodes of the TV show Gary Unmarried and as a voice in several video games. Under the name D.N.A., he has composed music for shows like Next, Date My Mom, and Pimp My Ride. He was also in the hit TV series “Heroes”.
He’s a Ghanaian born in Ohio, U.S.A. to Mr. Kwame Amoaku and Mrs. Komla Amoaku. Aside acting, he also has composing, screen writing and even production capabilities. With credits ranging from several national commercials to network drama, comedy, as well as big budget action films and moderately financed independent films.
|6. Boris Kodjoe|
Boris Kodjoe just like Edris Elba is no stranger to most Ghanaians. Born and raised in Germany, Boris is half Ghanaian, half German who starred in the American series, “Soul Food” which made him popular. He also featured in the movie, “Love and Basketball”. He’s appeared in many other high budget Hollywood movies since then.
7. Peter Mensah
|7. Peter Mensah|
Well for those of you who might not know him, he’s the messenger in the movie, “300” who was thrown into the well by the Spartan King after delivering his message.
He’s also starred in the series Spartacus as the eldest slave in the house of Bartiatis. Aside that, he’s featured in many high budget Hollywood movies such as, Tears of the Sun, Hidalgo, Dead Space and Starz. He’s a Ghanaian born in the UK.
|8. Frema Agyemang|
Frema is a Ghanaian born in the UK, who played the role of Martha Jones in the BBC science fiction series, Doctor Who and Touch Wood.
Born in the Woodberry Down section of London, England, on March 20, 1979, Freema Agyeman is the daughter of an Iranian mother, Azar, and a Ghanian father, Osei Agyeman. Growing up with an older sister, Leila, and younger brother, Dominic, she was initially interested in science as a child. It wasn’t until her late teens that she developed an interest in acting. Although the product of a Muslim mother and Methodist father, Agyeman grew up attending Roman Catholic schools. She also studied at the Anna Scher Theatre School, and graduated with a degree in performing arts and drama from Middlesex University.
When she started acting professionally, Agyeman initially used the spelling “Frema” for her first name to make it easier for casting directors to pronounce. After a series of small guest roles on television, she got a break when she was cast as Lola Wise on the popular soap opera Crossroads. She continued doing TV guest appearances and independent film work, including the role of a crime officer in the movie Rulers and Dealers, written and directed by Stephen Lloyd Jackson.
Agyeman is trained in martial arts and did a bit of modeling when she was starting out as an actress. She remains close to her family, who continues to inspire her, and has an upper arm tattoo of the Persian word “raha,” which means “free.” She has also endorsed Divine Chocolate, a company that supports fair trade practices with Ghanaian cocoa farmers.
|9. Akosua Busia|
Akosua Gyamama Busia is a Ghanaian actress, film director and songwriter who lives in the U.K. Akosua Busia was born on December 30, 1966 as Akosua Gyamama Busia. She is an actress, known for The Color Purple (1985), Tears of the Sun (2003) and The Seventh Sign (1988). She was previously married to John Singleton.
Her father, Dr. Kofi Abrefa Busia served as Prime Minister of the Republic of Ghana (in West Africa) from 1969 to 1972. Both father and daughter were educated at Oxford University in Oxforshire, England, UK; and both were members of the Royal Family of Wenchi. Akosua Busia was, in her native Ghana, a princess.
|10. Leila Djansi|
Leila Djansi is the founder of the Los Angeles based production house Turning Point Pictures. Her critically acclaimed screenplay for Movie Africa “Subcity” won the best screenplay award at FESPACO in 2007. She also won the WorldFest Platinum award for the film “Grass between my Lips” in 2009.
She attended the Savannah College of Art and Design and the Art Center College of Design.
Leila is no stranger to most Ghanaians and her movie, “Sinking Sands” has seen many Ghanaian actors rise to fame.
She’s controversial but her controversial nature is what makes her the strong woman she is, fighting for the rights of others and what she stands for.