Check Out These Black Actors Who Graduated From Yale School of Drama

From 'Black Panther,' 'Lovecraft Country,' 'Atlanta,' 'Candyman,' and 'Jurrasic World: Dominion,' these talents are apart of award-winning projects!

An Instagram post with Jonathan Majors, Brian Tyree Henry, Winston Duke, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Mamoudou Athie recently went viral posing the question of what the successful Black actors had in common and spoiler alert they all graduated from the Yale School of Drama!

But let's not forget talented actresses Angela Bassett, Lupita Nyong'o and Sanaa Lathan also refined their acting skills at the same prestigious private institution in New Haven, Connecticut.

Having starred in some of the latest and upcoming movies of their generation, take a look at how these eight entertainers got their start and what projects you might remember them from or will see them in very soon!

Jonathan Majors (Class of 2016)

Hailing from Dallas, Texas, Majors graduated with his Master of Fine Arts degree in 2016 from Yale and starred in five different plays produced by the School of Drama. He was also featured in productions by Yale Repertory Theatre and Yale Cabaret before securing his first onscreen role in the ABC miniseries When We Rise while still a student at the university.

Majors rose to fame after starring in the indie film The Last Black Man in San Francisco in 2019 but really captured everyone’s attention for his role as Atticus Freeman in the HBO series Lovecraft Country, where he scored a Primetime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series.

He also starred in the Netflix film The Harder They Fall and the Spike Lee film Da 5 Bloods.

The 33-year-old will star alongside Michael B. Jordan in Creed 3, which premieres on March 3, 2023.

Angela Bassett (Class of 1983)

Receiving both her Master of Fine Arts in 1983 and her Bachelor of Arts in African-American studies from Yale, Bassett's career is one with several major wins!

While at Yale, Bassett was cast in two of August Wilson's plays Ma Rainey's Black Bottom and Come and Gone, from there she was recognized in films like Boyz n the Hood (1991) and Malcolm X (1992). 

Angela Bassett Wins 'Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture' Golden Globe Award For 'Black Panther: Wakanda Forever'

In 1993, she won the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Comedy/Musical for her performance as Tina Turner/Anna Mae Bullock in What's Love Got to Do With It and was also nominated for an Oscar for the same role. 

Bassett's veteran career also includes Waiting to Exhale, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Akeelah and The Bee, Meet The Browns, American Horror Story, and her most recent projects Black Panther and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

She scored her second Golden Globe win at the 2023 award show for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in an Any Motion Picture for her role as Queen Ramonda in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

Bryan Tyree Henry (Class of 2007)

While Henry graduated from Morehouse in the 2000s,  he went on to the Yale School of Drama to get his Masters of Fine Arts from Yale, graduating in 2007. He would go on to perform in several stage and Off-Broadway productions as well as having a brief recurring role as Winston Scrapper in HBO’s Boardwalk Empire.

In 2016, Henry’s role was that of Alfred “Paper Boi” Miles in the FX series Atlanta, for his performance in the series, he received a nomination for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series.  In 2017, Henry’s role as Ricky in the NBC series This Is Us, and was also nominated for a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series.

Most recently, Henry starred as Bernie Hayes in Godzilla vs. Kong (2021) and Bullet Train (2022). 

Fans of the actor will hear him voice the character Jefferson Davis in the upcoming Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse premiering in 2023.

Lupita Nyong'o (Class of 2012)

(Photo by John Phillips/Getty Images)

As a part of the Class of 2012, Nyong'o's breakthrough came in the film 12 Years a Slave in 2013. Her work in the film scored her an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. 

Since then, she has had roles in the Star Wars franchise, The Jungle Book, Jordan Peele's Us, and Black Panther and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

Winston Duke (Class of 2012)

Notably known for his role as M'Baku in Black Panther and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Duke graduated from Yale School of Drama in 2012. He scored small roles in theatre productions and television shows like Person of Interest and Modern Family

In 2018, Duke had supporting roles throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe from the Black Panther franchise, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame before starring in Jordan Peele's horror flick in 2019.

He shares a Screen Actors Guild Award (SAG) with the original cast of Black Panther for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. 

And when it comes to current projects, Duke will be seen in the 2024 film The Fall Guy

Sanaa Lathan (Class of 1995)

While receiving her undergraduate degree from the University of California, Berkley, Lathan obtained her Master of Fine Arts degree for Yale in 1995. 

Famously known for her role in Love & Basketball and Brown Sugar, Lathan has had success in The Best Man franchise, The Cleveland Show, Family Guy and her latest project On The Come Up.

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Class of 2015)

This Class of 2015 Yale graduate was first seen in the Netflix musical drama series The Get Down playing Clarence "Cadillac" Caldwell in 2016. From there, the actor had roles in Baywatch (2017) and The Greatest Showman (2017). 

Abdul-Mateen then found himself in the DC Comics universe playing Black Manta in Aquaman (2018) before starring in Jordan Peele's Candyman and the Netflix series Black Mirror.

His role as Doctor Manhattan in the HBO series Watchmen earned his first Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or a Special in 2020. 

Other major projects from Abdul-Mateen include The Trial of the Chicago 7, The Matrix Resurrections, the Broadway revival of Topdog/Underdog and the Marvel Cinematic Universe Disney+ series Wonder Man.

Mamoudou Athie (Class of 2014)

Graduating from Yale's 2014 class, Athie is known for his role in the Netflix horror series Archive 81 (2022) and his role in Jurrasic World: Dominion (2022).

The 34-year-old made his Broadway debut in 2015 and also scored supporting roles in television series including Netflix's The Get Down. In 2020 he landed his first major feature film roles in another Netflix project Uncorked and Amazon's Black Box. 

In 2020, he was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Actor in a Short Form Comedy or Drama Series for the FXX anthology Cake

He is reportedly set to voice the character of Wade Ripple in Elemental debuting in 2023.

Latest News

Subscribe for BET Updates

Provide your email address to receive our newsletter.

By clicking Subscribe, you confirm that you have read and agree to our Terms of Use and acknowledge our Privacy Policy. You also agree to receive marketing communications, updates, special offers (including partner offers) and other information from BET and the Paramount family of companies. You understand that you can unsubscribe at any time.