Kobna Holdbrook-Smith

Kobna Kuttah Holdbrook-Smith

(1977-08-23) 23 August 1977 (age 45)[1]
Accra, Ghana
Alma materGuildford School of Acting
Years active2002–present
AwardsLaurence Olivier Award, 2019

Kobna Kuttah Holdbrook-Smith MBE (born 23 August 1977) is a Ghanaian-British actor. He has played roles in films, including Father Richard Emery in Ghost Stories (2017), Oliver in The Commuter, Templeton Frye in Mary Poppins Returns and Doctor Wren in Gwen (all 2018). He has portrayed Crispus Allen in the superhero film Justice League (2017), part of the DC Extended Universe.

For his performance in Tina on the West End, he won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Musical.

Early life

Holdbrook-Smith was born in Accra, Ghana. He grew up in Frimley, Surrey, England, where he lived with his parents, Dr. [Yoku] Henry Andrew Holdbrook-Smith and Tenu Holdbrook-Smith, and his brother, Kofi.[2] He was initially frightened of taking up acting due to his family's disapproval. "I was about 15, I thought, 'I wonder if I could [become an actor]'. I hadn't really suggested it to anyone. It just didn't seem allowed. So there was a slow exploration of [acting] and by the time I was 18, I was resolute."[3]

He attended Guildford School of Acting to study acting,[4] graduating in 2000.[5]


Holdbrook-Smith began his acting career on television in 2002 when he played Orlando Figes in the Judge John Deed episode "Everyone's Child". Since then, he has had roles in TV series such as Little Britain, Star Stories (from 2006 until 2008), Taking the Flak, Sirens, Holby City, Silk, Father Brown, The Last Panthers, Class, Dark Heart, The Split and Red Election.

His first major theatre lead came in 2005, when he played Ken in Mustapha Matura's Playboy of the West Indies at the Tricycle Theatre.[6] He later starred in their critically acclaimed African-American Season, performing in the European premieres of Walk Hard by Abram Hill, Fabulation by Lynn Nottage and Gem of the Ocean by August Wilson. In interviews he has cited August Wilson's plays as personal favourites.[7] In 2006 he played Levee In Ma Rainey's Black Bottom by August Wilson at the Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre, then four years later he appeared as Herald Loomis in Joe Turner's Come and Gone by August Wilson at the Young Vic Theatre.

He first appeared at the Globe in 2007 in Love's Labours Lost, which he also performed later the same year at the National Theatre of Korea, in Seoul. Holdbrook-Smith had his debut at the National Theatre in 2009 and has since starred in four productions there (most notably appearing as Mortimer in Edward II). In 2015 he played Laertes alongside Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet at the Barbican Theatre. This play was also broadcast live in cinemas worldwide as part of National Theatre Live.[8]

In 2016 Holdbrook-Smith performed with Benedict Cumberbatch again, this time in Marvel’s Dr Strange.[9] A year later he played the part of Det. Crispus Allen in DC Comics Justice League and also starred as Warden Walker in Paddington 2,[10] and as Father Emery in Ghost Stories. In 2018, he played the role of Oliver in The Commuter and played a dual role of the live-action character Templeton Frye and the animated voice of the Weasel in Disney’s Mary Poppins Returns.[11]

Holdbrook-Smith has also performed in BBC Radio dramas, including Judas[12] and On Her Majesty's Secret Service.[13] He has narrated a number of audiobooks,[14] most notably the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch.[15]

Kobna Holdbrook-Smith is currently starring in the musical Tina as Ike Turner at the Aldwych Theatre.[16]

He was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2020 Birthday Honours for services to drama,[17] and was recognised as one of the United Kingdom's most influential people of African or African Caribbean heritage when Holdbrook-Smith was included in the 2021 edition of the annual Powerlist.[18]



Year Film Role Notes
2011 Rahab Mill Short film
2012 Womack Dan Tan Short film
2013 The Double Guard / Doctor
2013 10ml I.V. Karl Short film
2014 Trick or Receipt Martin Short film
2015 Hamlet Laertes Live in theatres
2016 Doctor Strange Physical Therapist
2017 Ghost Stories Father Emery
2017 Justice League Detective Crispus Allen
2017 Paddington 2 Warden Walker
2018 The Commuter Oliver
2018 Mary Poppins Returns Templeton Frye / Weasel (voice)
2018 Gwen Doctor Wren
2021 Zack Snyder’s Justice League Detective Crispus Allen
2023 Wonka TBA Filming


Year Film Role Notes
2002 Judge John Deed Orlando Figes Episode: "Everyone's Child"
2003 Casualty PC Riddock Episode: "Never Judge a Book"
2003 Absolute Power Journalist No. 1 Episode: "Burn and Crash"
2004 Little Britain 2 episodes
2004 Holby City Lee Holden Episode: "One More Chance"
2005 Family Affairs Officer Kennedy 1 episode
2005 According to Bex Vox Pops Recurring
2005 Mike Bassett: Manager Carlton Dawes Main cast
2006 Pulling Joe's Father 1 episode
2006–2008 Star Stories Various 8 episodes
2007 The Bill Bruno Hammond Episode: "Code of Silence"
2007 The Whistleblowers Male Nurse Episode: "Pandemic"
2007 Katy Brand's Big Ass Show 1 episode
2009 Whatever It Takes Nifemi TV movie
2009 Taking the Flak Joyful Sifuri Main cast
2009 PhoneShop Graham Episode: "New Man: Pilot"
2010 Whites Barnaby 1 episode
2011 Roadkill Tommy TV movie
2011 Sirens Ryan Bailey Recurring
2011 Holby City Paul James 2 episodes
2012 Silk Paul McGovern 1 episode
2013 Frankie Max Hall 1 episode
2013 The Café Jason Recurring
2014 Turks & Caicos Colin Maitlis TV movie
2014 Crackanory Commander Episode: "In Space No One Can Hear You Clean & the Weather Man"
2014 Agatha Raisin Rev. Jez Bloxby Episode: "The Quiche of Death"
2015 Father Brown Marvin Morris Episode: "The Invisible Man"
2015 Midsomer Murders Rob Mead Episode: "The Dagger Club"
2015 The Last Panthers James Davis Miniseries; main cast
2015 Capital Mashinko Miniseries
2016 Class Jasper Adeola Episode: "Nightvisiting"
2016 Dark Heart DS Dave Pulford 1 episode
2018 The Split Glen Peters Recurring
2019 Motherland Nick Recurring
2021 Superworm Wizard Lizard (voice) TV movie
2021 Red Election Levi Nichols Main cast
2022 His Dark Materials Balthamos Recurring
2023 Accused David Mingo Episode: "Kendall's Story"


Year Title Roles Notes
2018 Tina: The Tina Turner Musical Ike Turner West End theatre

Awards and nominations


Year Award Category Work Result
2019 Laurence Olivier Award[19] Best Actor in a Musical Tina: The Tina Turner Musical Won
Black British Theatre Award[20] Best Male Actor in a Musical Nominated
WhatsOnStage Award[21] Best Actor in a Musical Nominated


  1. ^ "Kobina Kuttah HOLDBROOK-SMITH - Personal Appointments". Companies House. Retrieved 24 January 2021.
  2. ^ "Dramatic Need". Dramatic Need. Retrieved 31 May 2018.
  3. ^ Ositelu, Tola (27 May 2017). "Dramatic Chameleon: An Interview with Kobna Holdbrook-Smith". Soul Culture. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  4. ^ "Star Guests Lead Change Through the Arts Careers Event at GSA". gsauk.org. 4 May 2017. Retrieved 31 May 2018.
  5. ^ "Alumni: Kobna Holdbrook-Smith". Guilford School of Acting. Retrieved 16 September 2019.
  6. ^ Scott, Adam (14 December 2004). "Playboy of the West Indies, Tricycle Theatre, London". The Independent. Retrieved 31 May 2018.
  7. ^ Williams, Karla (3 June 2010). "Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Joe Turner's Come and Gone". Afridiziak Theatre News. Retrieved 31 May 2018.
  8. ^ www.kbgroupuk.com. "Hamlet". barbican.org.uk. Retrieved 31 May 2018.
  9. ^ "Doctor Strange (2016)". IMDb. Retrieved 31 May 2018.
  10. ^ "Paddington 2 (2017)". IMDb. Retrieved 31 May 2018.
  11. ^ Marshall, Rob (25 December 2018). "Mary Poppins Returns". IMDb. Emily Blunt, Meryl Streep, Ben Whishaw. Retrieved 31 May 2018.
  12. ^ "Episode 1, Judas, 15 Minute Drama – BBC Radio 4". BBC. Retrieved 31 May 2018.
  13. ^ "On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Saturday Drama – BBC Radio 4". BBC. Retrieved 31 May 2018.
  14. ^ "Kobna Holdbrook Smith on GoodReads". GoodReads. Retrieved 22 July 2018.
  15. ^ "Rivers of London audiobook by Ben Aaronovitch – Rakuten Kobo". Rakuten Kobo. Retrieved 31 May 2018.
  16. ^ "CAST & CREATIVE". Tina Turner Musical Limited. Retrieved 31 May 2018.
  17. ^ "No. 63135". The London Gazette (Supplement). 10 October 2020. p. B22.
  18. ^ Lavender, Jane (17 November 2020). "Lewis Hamilton ends incredible year top of influential Black Powerlist 2021". mirror. Retrieved 19 January 2021.
  19. ^ McPhee, Ryan (5 March 2019). "2019 Olivier Award Nominations: London's Company and Come From Away Lead the Pack". Playbill. Retrieved 3 December 2020.
  20. ^ Longman, Will (19 September 2019). "Shortlist for first Black British Theatre Awards 2019 announced". London Theatre Guide. Retrieved 3 December 2020.
  21. ^ "Shortlisted nominees announced for 2019 WhatsOnStage Awards". West End Wilma. 5 December 2018. Retrieved 3 December 2020.