To celebrate the work of black British actors within the television industry this Black History Month, here are some rising stars who we can’t wait to see light up our screens in the coming year.
Having cut her teeth in the industry for ten years, it’s fair to say that London Hughes is no longer a newcomer. Yet with some exciting projects in the pipeline, the comedian is just getting started.
Off the back of a sold-out run at the Edinburgh fringe, for which she was nominated for Best Show in the festival’s Dave Edinburgh Comedy Awards, Hughes has continued to make waves across the industry.
Earlier this month, the second series of her Hip Hop comedy quiz show Don’t Hate the Playaz made television history by becoming the first show ever to host a panel comprised entirely of black women.
Currently residing in LA, Hughes is working on her own sitcom with Larry Wilmore, the co-creator of hit show Insecure with Issa Rae.
Soo many great things are happening for me in LA right now, I’m not allowed to post it on socials, my parents barely understand what’s going on and I don’t have a therapist, so basically I’ve just been telling all my news to my Uber drivers... they really have been so supportive!
— London Hughes (@TheLondonHughes) October 16, 2019
Samson Kayo is part of the emerging talent in British TV comedy. Having previously starred in Timewasters and Famalam, this May saw the release of a new sitcom called Sliced on Dave, which he co-created and starred in alongside Theo Barklem Biggs.
The sitcom draws upon Kayo’s own experiences as a pizza delivery driver in South London and follows the amusing and awkward shenanigans of two drivers Joshua (Kayo) and Ricky (Barklem Biggs).
Speaking at an RTS Futures event in May 2019, Kayo said: “I’ve been doing comedy for quite a while and I’d never seen [lives like mine] depicted on telly [until] I saw Michaela Coel’s Chewing Gum. It inspired me to tell my own story.”
As for his next venture, Kayo has been announced as a cast member in a new comedy horror series from Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead) called Truth Seekers. The Amazon Prime series will follow a group of part-time paranormal investigators who attempt to uncover ghosts across the UK.
Making her name as Cleopatra in Bad Education and starring in Inside No. 9 and Sliced, Weruche Opia is no stranger to comedy roles.
However, 2020 will see her star in her first drama with a role in Michaela Coel’s highly anticipated new series January 22nd (w/t) for BBC and HBO. Opia has been cast as Terry Pratchard, the fun-loving best friend to Coel’s Arabella.
The series is set to explore sexual consent in contemporary life and tackles the new dating landscape of the social media age.
January 22nd will follow Arabella, a highly talented young woman who is spiked by a date-rape drug and must rebuild her life after being sexually assaulted.
Michael Ward went from tweeting his excitement for the original series of Top Boy as a school boy back in 2013, to becoming the new lead for the Netflix reboot.
He stars as Jamie, the ruthless leader of the violent ‘ZT gang’ and loving father-figure to his younger brothers, who threatens to disrupt the gang hierarchy of Summerhouse, a fictional Hackney estate.
His performance has already landed him a film role in Blue Story, which is currently in post-production.
If you told me 6 years ago I would be leading Top Boy with some of my hero’s, rubbing shoulders with living legends and be showcased my @netflix ...I would’ve told you that’s never happening. I literally can’t stop taking everything in. Life is actually crazyyy pic.twitter.com/W2q8WhttCC
— Micheal Ward (@onlymikes_) April 14, 2019
Newcomer Masali Baduza has landed the leading role in the BBC’s highly-anticipated adaptation of Noughts and Crosses.
The series, based on Malorie Blackman’s best-selling novel, explores issues of race and class in an alternative Britain where the ‘Crosses’, the black ruling class, are segregated from the ‘Noughts’, the white underclass.
Baduza will play Sephy, a Cross who develops a forbidden relationship with a Nought, Callum, played by Jack Rowan (Peaky Blinders). The two teens must overcome injustice and divisions enforced by their tyrannical state to stay together.
The series also boasts British musician Stormzy as a cast member, a self-described “die-hard fan of Malorie’s novels”.
Filming is currently underway in South Africa.
While his acting career began on stage in performances such as Jesus Christ Superstar and more recently Wise Children at the Old Vic, Omari Douglas is soon to make his debut in new drama Boys from Russell T Davies (Doctor Who).
The series, set in London during the 80s, will follow a new group of friends as they discover and celebrate their gay identities in the wake of the devastating AIDS crisis.
Starring alongside Years and Years frontman Olly Alexander, Douglas will play teenage party boy Roscoe Babatunde. Douglas tweeted his excitement for joining the project:
is this real life??? answers required asap! apparently i'll be joining the cast of russell t davies' new series BOYS - coming to your screens next year!!! my lil heart could burst with joy and gratitude. cannot wait to tell this story with these wonders!
— omari douglas (@marsdoug) October 3, 2019