Kobna Holdbrook-Smith is a Ghanaian-born British actor known for his film, television, theatre, and voice acting.
Holdbrook-Smith was born in Accra, Ghana. He grew up in Surrey, England, with his mother Tenu, his father Henry and brother Kofi. 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."
He attended Guildford School of Acting to study acting.
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 till 2008), Taking the Flak, Sirens, Holby City, Silk, Father Brown, Father Brown, The Last Panthers, Class, Dark Heart and The Split.
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. 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. 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. Later the same year he performed this Shakespeare play 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 movie theatres worldwide as part of National Theatre Live.
In 2016 Holdbrook-Smith could be seen with Benedict Cumberbatch again, this time in the blockbuster Marvel’s Dr Strange. A year later he played the part of Det. Crispus Allen in DC Comics Justice League. The same year he also starred as Warden Walker in the well-known children’s film Paddington 2. and as Father Emery in Ghost Stories. In 2018, he played the role of Oliver in The Commuter and played Frye/Weasel in Disney’s Mary Poppins Returns.
Holdbrook-Smith has also performed in BBC radio dramas, including Judas and On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Furthermore Holdbrook-Smith is known for his audiobook narrations, most notably the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch.
Kobna Holdbrook-Smith is currently starring in the musical Tina as Ike Turner at the Aldwych Theatre. Tina Turner herself approved of the casting.