Eleven Hollywood actors of Trinidad & Tobago heritage

There are several actors working in Hollywood with roots in Trinidad and Tobago. Some were born here and migrated as children or young adults. Some are children of Trinbagonian parents. Here are just a few that you may recognise (listed in alphabetical order)

Caribbean actors are everywhere on stage and screen. Here are eleven that are specifically of Trinidad & Tobago heritage.

Tatyana Ali

Born in the US to a Trinidadian father and Panamanian mother, she’s best known for US TV series The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, The Young and the Restless, and films like Kiss the Girls and Home Again, which was filmed in Trinidad in 2012 and co-starred C.C.H. Pounder.

Winston Duke. Courtesy Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Winston Duke. Courtesy Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Winston Duke

Born in Argyle Village, Tobago, Winston migrated to the US as a child, later earning an MFA from Yale School of Drama. He appeared in US TV series like Modern Family, Major Crimes, Person of Interest, Law and Order: SVU, and The Messengers, and made his feature film debut in 2018 as M’Baku/Man-Ape in Marvel’s Black Panther and the subsequent The Avengers: Infinity War. He subsequently appeared in Us and Spenser Confidential, and has signed on for the upcoming Apple TV+ series Swagger! He tries to come back as regularly as he can, to Trinidad and Tobago, where he has done arts awareness workshops at local high schools, and also performed in the Trinidad Theatre Workshop production of An Echo in the Bone. For a full Q&A with Winston (January 2018), click here.

Naomie Harris

Naomie Harris. Photo: Liam Mendes

Naomie Harris at the The Australian Premiere of “Skyfall” in 2012. Photo: Liam Mendes (flickr.com/photos/liammendes)

Born in London to a Jamaican mother and Trinidadian father, millions saw this Cambridge University-educated British starlet’s performances as Tia/Calypso in two of the wildly popular Pirates of the Caribbean movies. But Harris’s film, television, and theatre roles on both sides of the pond include more literary fare, such as the BBC TV adaptation of Jamaican-British author Andrea Levy’s Small Island (filmed in part in Jamaica) and the mini-series adaptation of Jamaican-British writer Zadie Smith’s White Teeth. She’s also played Winnie Mandela in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, appeared in the Oscar-winning Moonlight, and joined the James Bond franchise as Eve Moneypenny in the James Bond films Skyfall (2012) and Spectre (2015) — both of which are directed by Sam Mendes, himself of Trinidadian descent, as well as No Time to Die (2020). Harris — a graduate of Cambridge University — is the first black actress to play the role of Moneypenny.

Jackée Harry

Jackée Harry. Photo via twitter.com/JackeeHarry

Jackée Harry. Photo via twitter.com/JackeeHarry

Born to a Trinidadian mother, she is best known for US TV series like Sister, Sister (with Tia and Tamera Mowry, who are of Bahamian heritage) and 227, for which she has the distinction of becoming the first and only black actress to win the Emmy for outstanding actress in a comedy. She’s made countless guest appearances on popular series, and currently stars in Tyler Perry’s House of Payne.

Heather Headley of Trinidad & Tobago

Trinidad & Tobago’s Heather Headley

Heather Headley

Grammy and Tony Award-winning singer, songwriter, and actress Heather Headley was born in Trinidad, moving to the United States when she was a child. She originated the role of Nala in Disney’s Broadway adaptation of The Lion King in 1997. Then she auditioned for and won the title role in Elton John and Tim Rice’s next Disney project, Aida. Her first Grammy-nominated solo album followed – This is Who I Am; she won her first Grammy with her gospel-infused third album — Audience of One. She sang a duet with Josh Groban at the 2009 inauguration of US President Barack Obama on the steps of the historic Lincoln Memorial. More recently, she has transitioned to working in television, with recurring in She’s Gotta Have It on Netflix, and NBC’s Chicago Med. She is one of the three leads in Sweet Magnolias, which premiered on Netflix in May 2020, and will play gospel star Clara Ward in the Aretha Franklin biopic Respect (scheduled for release on Christmas Day 2020). For a full Q&A with Heather, click here.

Nia Long

Nia Long 2009. Photo: The Heart Truth

Backstage at The Heart Truth’s Red Dress Collection Fashion Show during New York Fashion Week (February 13, 2009 at Bryant Park). Photo: The Heart Truth (www.flickr.com/photos/21943577@N03)

Born to Trinidadian parents, she’s best known for roles on TV shows like NCIS: Los Angeles, Empire, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Third Watch, and in films like Boyz n the Hood, Made in America, Love Jones, Soul Food, The Best Man, and Big Momma’s House. She’s been spotted from time to time visiting Trinidad, and says: “I will always be an island girl. The food, the music, the people are beautiful. My grandmother was born in Grenada and raised in Trinidad. She taught me to fear nothing and no one but God. She is a fearless warrior and my hero. I am kind of a hippie in many ways. Open to most things, cultures and non-traditional ideas. Always barefoot and would rather be close to the water than on the red carpet.”

Romany Malco. Photo via blackfilm.com

Romany Malco in Screen Gems’ comedy “Think Like a Man”. Photo via blackfilm.com

Romany Malco

Born in the US to Trinidadian parents, he’s best known for roles in US TV series like Weeds, and movies like The Forty Year Old Virgin, the Think Like a Man films, Baby Mama, and Blades of Glory. Among the ways that he stays true to his Trini roots is selling Trini-themed merchandise on his website, but also by doing wickedly funny impressions of Trinidadians (real or imagined), both on his YouTube channel and in interviews like here on the Wendy Williams Show. He currently stars in A Million Little Things on ABC.

Mishael Morgan

Fans of The Young and the Restless will recognise Trinidad-born Mishael Morgan, who has appeared as the characters of Hillary and now Amanda on the popular, long-running soap. Her family moved to New York and then Toronto when she was a child.

Alfonso Ribeiro

Born in the US to Trinidadian parents (and the grandson of Trinidadian calypsonian Albert Ribeiro, known as Lord Hummingbird), he won US TV series Dancing with the Stars in 2014, but is probably best known for his role in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air with Will Smith (and co-starring with Tatyana Ali, Karyn Parsons, and Joseph Marcell).

Lorraine Toussaint in "Saving Grace". Courtesy TNT

Lorraine Toussaint in “Saving Grace”. Courtesy TNT

Lorraine Toussaint

Born in Trinidad, Lorraine Toussaint moved to the US as a child. The Juilliard-trained actress — with whom we did an interview a few years ago for this Q&A — is also known for roles on US TV series Orange Is the New Black, Forever, Saving Grace, Any Day Now, The Fosters, Friday Night Lights, Crossing Jordan, Ugly Betty, Grace & Frankie, blackish, and Law & Order, to name a few, as well as films like Hudson Hawk, Dangerous Minds, The Soloist, Middle of Nowhere, and Selma, in which she grippingly played iconic civil rights activist Amelia Boynton Robinson. These days, Toussaint is focusing on producing as well, with an eye for projects that are Caribbean-based, and a desire to invest in Trinidad and Tobago’s film industry and develop young acting talent. Toussaint returns to Trinidad regularly, and has hosted workshops for developing filmmakers and actors back at home through the national film company. She sees no reason her homeland can’t be the mecca of the film and theatre industry in the Caribbean. Toussaint has said that her Trini roots, and identifying as a Caribbean woman, have served her well. Being from the Caribbean is “an empowering perspective on the world,” she says, “coming from a place where being a person of colour doesn’t render you a minority. To be part of the majority as a person of colour is very important, so I keep bringing [my daughter] home. So that she’s got roots there . . . My daughter considers herself a Trinidadian. I am glad we’re a part of this.”

Geoffrey Holder. Photo via AmericanTheatre.org

Geoffrey Holder. Photo via AmericanTheatre.org


Geoffrey Holder

The multi-talented Geoffrey Holder — who passed away in 2014 — was born in Trinidad in 1930. A pioneer, Holder conquered stage and screen, featuring in films like All Night Long, Annie, and Boomerang; narrating Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; playing James Bond henchman Baron Samedi in Live and Let Die; and becoming 7Up’s “uncola” spokesman in the 1970s and 80s (later reprising the role for an appearance on US TV show The Celebrity Apprentice). An actor, choreographer, director, dancer, painter, costume designer, and singer, his accolades included two Tony awards and a Guggenheim Fellowship in fine arts.

Parts of this article are excerpted from a Caribbean Beat article featuring 40+ Hollywood actors of Caribbean heritage and a feature on Heather Headley.

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  1. Seeta Ramrattan 22 October, 2020 at 1:10 pm

    Well done Trinidadians…..proud of you all


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