Cringe-style acting is a part of the Nigerian movie industry we can’t erase, but we’re here for the crop of Nollywood actors who are changing this narrative.
From the young guns to the OGs, everyone has upped their game, and it’s understandable; the Nollywood of yesteryears is a no contender for box office-shattering, digital streaming and international projects Nollywood.
If you haven’t been paying attention to the names on this list, here’s a chance to get familiar with all the greatness they bring to the table.
Nollywood’s top young actors in 2023
We were never in doubt that this was one smart little man who would one day claim his spot on our TV screens, we just didn’t know it’d be this early. Maleek as a younger Obalola (Tobi Bakre) in Gangs of Lagos had critics deading the narrative that Nollywood cannot produce child actors.
A lot of things might have taken a back seat in our memories about Netflix’s five-part series, Far From Home, but surely not Mike Folarin’s performance as Ishaya Bello. Afolarin was a delight to watch from start to finish, and if anything, the outrage against him on Twitter after the series debuted was a true testament to how much he bodied the role. This one has us sat and we have no option but to stan.
My first onscreen encounter with Moshood Fattah was in Bolanle Austen Peter’s Fela and the Kalakuta Queens (2017), and I just knew he was one to look out for. Six years later, there he was again in Funke Akindele’s Battle on Buka Street, and my earlier suspicions about him were confirmed. He’s going to be around for a long time.
Whether he’s playing a troubled, thrill-seeking teen in films like Nimbe and Kasala, or the lead in a psychological thriller like Choke, Chimezie Imo is a bankable actor who’ll always give you your money’s worth. I mean, it’s not child’s play that he was nominated in an AMVCA category alongside OG Nollywood actors like RMD, Chidi Mokeme and OC Ukeje.
Emeka “Emeneks” Nwagbaraocha
You might want to remember this name because he’s one actor poised to have a big career in high-budget, international Nollywood projects. Emeneks captured our attention with his performance as Frank in Netflix’s five-part series, Far From Home. But that wasn’t his first outing, the rising star has featured in projects like Kasala, Rattlesnake: The Ahanna Story, Prophetess, and most recently, Niyi Akinmolayan’s noir project, House of Secrets, but OGs know him from EbonyLife’s Life 101. He’s making the right moves, and we’re taking notes.
The next rated OGs
A handful of BBNaija alum have tried to break the jinx of being more than reality stars, but no one has done it quite like Tobi Bakre. He completely swooped us off our feet in 2022 and we aren’t complaining because we want more of it. From Gangs of Lagos to Brotherhood, Tobi bodied the action genre so bad, any conversation about Nollywood lacking action stars will always fall dead on arrival. More of it, Tobi, more of it.
There was a lot to take home from Jade Osiberu’s Gang of Lagos, but anyone who watched the film cannot forget the revelation that was Olarotimi Fakunle. Cast as Kazeem, AKA Eleniyan, in the Amazon Prime project, the level of nuance and depth he brought to the character left the audience with mixed feelings about him as a villain. We’re only hoping Nollywood doesn’t typecast him because there are more layers to this bundle of talent.
Although he debuted in 2015 on the Africa Magic Television Series, Hotel Majestic, Maurice Sam’s big Nollywood moment came in 2022 with his role as a hired assassin on Netflix’s original series, Blood Sisters. The role has laid the foundation for an exciting career run. You’ll catch more of Maurice in 2022 projects When Men Cry and Perfect Assistants.
Half of Twitter NG wanted their feet on Kunle Remi’s neck when Kunle Afolayan’s Anikulapo dropped on Netflix in 2022, and that’s a pointer to how well he bodied his role as Saro. The Nollywood actor is not a newbie in these streets, but Afolayan’s bet on him as a lead cast opened the audience’s eyes to his depth. He should’ve bagged that AMVCA award, or at best, be nominated in the category.
Adebowale “Mr Macaroni” Adedayo
It’s no surprise that Mr Macaroni is well on his way to making a cross-over to mainstream Nollywood. His approach to online skit-making has always been from the lens of a trained thespian, one who knows his onions. So far, he has landed roles in Anikulapo, Brotherhood and King of Thieves, but we need a Nollywood director to cast him as a leading man. He has all it takes to raise shoulders with some of our favourite Nollywood actors.
Nollywood’s top-rated veterans of 2023
When you take a break from your acting career, the only acceptable way to make a comeback is as Scar in a big-budget Nollywood film like Shanty Town. Chidi Mokeme only returned to let us know why he ranks high as a leading man in Nollywood, and boy, were we SAT? He ate, left no crumbs and delivered a straight-up onscreen masterclass on how to be a veteran artist. The actor has taken on more projects, and we can’t wait to be schooled again.
When a Yoruba action epic goes on to rank as one of the leading Nollywood films of 2022, it’s because everyone involved delivered. Femi Adebayo carried the entire King of Thieves on his back with his interpretation of his role as Ageshinkole. He’s one of the Nollywood actors out to remind us why he’s ranked as an OG in the first place. Adebayo is set to break his own record with his soon-to-be-released follow-up, Jagun Jagun.
Although he’s been busy with the production side of Nollywood these days, our OG bad boy still has a tight grip on us with his performance as Uncle B in Netflix’s Blood Sisters. With that role, he basically said: “I don’t have to say too much, but I’ll still teach y’all HOW TO ACT”. And honestly, we were schooled. Nouah’s latest, Love, Lust and Other Things, is currently doing mad numbers in the cinemas, and he still has us anticipating projects like Tokunbo, Igbo Landing.
Mo Abudu took the creative decision to cast Odunlade Adekola as Eleshin Oba in the first-ever live-action adaption of Wole Soyinka’s play, The King’s Horseman, and we dare say she couldn’t have chosen better. Odunlade bodied that role to the T, and if anything, it was a full-circle moment that served as a personal reminder that he’s who he thinks he is. He went on to show us in Femi Adebayo’s King of Thieves and is currently receiving rave reviews for his self-directed latest, Orisa.
Daddy Kosoko is the gift that keeps giving to Nollywood, and we’re just genuinely thankful that old age has nothing on him yet. The veteran actor has shown out in 2023 big-budget productions like Al-Majiri, Jagaban: Last Man Standing and is poised to feature in Kunle Afolayan’s upcoming series, Anikulapo: Rise of The Spectre. Daddy Kosoko isn’t halting his wheels, and we rate it.