Originally written for and published on the Discover Trinidad & Tobago website in 2016. Parts are excerpted from my Caribbean Beat article (2015), featuring 40+ Hollywood actors of Caribbean 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).
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.
Born in Argyle Village, Tobago, Winston migrated to the US as a child, later earning an MFA from Yale School of Drama. He has appeared in US TV series like Major Crimes, Person of Interest, Law and Order: SVU, and The Messengers. He finds time regularly to come back to Trinidad and Tobago where he does arts awareness workshops at local high schools, and also performed in the Trinidad Theatre Workshop production of An Echo in the Bone.
Millions saw this 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 and Eve Moneypenny in the James Bond films Skyfall (2012) and Spectre (due for release later this year) — both of which are directed by Sam Mendes, himself of Trinidadian descent. Harris — a graduate of Cambridge University — is the first black actress to play the role of Moneypenny.
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.
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. Fellow Tony (and Grammy) Award-winning artist Heather Headley — whom we interviewed several years ago for this Q&A — was also born in Trinidad.
Born to Trinidadian parents, she’s best known for roles on TV shows like 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.”
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.
Born in the US to Trinidadian parents (and the grandson of Trinidadian calypso legend Rafael “Roaring Lion” Leon), 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).
Born in Trinidad, Lorraine Toussaint moved to the US as a child. Acclaimed for her performance in the hit series Orange Is the New Black, 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 Forever, Saving Grace, Any Day Now, The Fosters, Friday Night Lights, Crossing Jordan, Ugly Betty, and Law & Order, as well as films like Hudson Hawk, Dangerous Minds, The Soloist, Middle of Nowhere, and the recently released Selma, in which she grippingly played iconic civil rights activist Amelia Boynton Robinson. These days, Toussaint is focusing more on producing, 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.”