Jonathan Ajayi's recent outstanding performances have led to selection by Screen International as one of their 2021 ‘Stars of Tomorrow’. In particular, he is known for his recent starring role in both seasons of the BBC’s hit drama series ‘Noughts and Crosses’. He played Lieutenant Lekan Baako, a military officer, Sephy's boyfriend and chief antagonist. The series was based on the Noughts & Crosses novels by Malorie Blackman and is set in an alternate history where black "Cross" people rule over white "Noughts”.
In 2021 he starred as the lead in the BIFA nominated, award winning short film ‘Play It Safe’. As well as the film’s BIFA nomination for Best British Short, the film also won the London Critics Circle Film Award for British/Irish Short Film of the Year and won a Grand Jury Award at the AFI Fest (American Film Institute). The film tackled racism in a visceral, uncomfortable way and Jonathan describes it as “one of my proudest moments”.
Other film credits include playing Emerson in the award-winning 2020 superhero film ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ and the lead role of Koffee in the 2019 romantic indie-drama film ‘‘The Drifters’. He was nominated for BIFA’s Most Promising Newcomer Award for his performance in the latter.
His stage credits are notable. In 2021 he played Laertes in Greg Hersov’s critically acclaimed Young Vic production of a modern day ‘Hamlet’. He was nominated for the 2022 Ian Charleson Award for this performance. He also starred as Igwe in the National Theatre’s production of ‘Three Sisters’ which too received high praise from critics. The play was written by Barbershop Chronicles playwright Inua Ellams who took the characters from the classic Chekov play and relocated them from Russia to Nigeria.
In 2018 he starred in the Young Vic production of ‘The Brothers Size’ from the Academy Award winning writer Tarell Alvin McCraney, which also starred Sọpẹ́ Dìrísù. He also played Lysander in the 2015 Ruby in the Dust production of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream in New Orleans’, which transported the classic Shakespeare play to the city of New Orleans at the turn of the 20th Century and was sung to the rhythms of Louisiana.
Jonathan was brought up in West London and has a London accent. He used a neutral RP in Noughts and Crosses and he flexes into a strong M.L.E if needed. With Nigerian heritage and Jamaican family, he can adopt both of those accents with ease. He is also comfortable with a generic Northern accent, a general American accent, AAVE and a South African Xhosa accent.
Play It Safe (Film, 2021) – 'Jonathan'
Hamlet (Young Vic 2021) (Theatre, 2021) – 'Laertes', Young Vic
Noughts and Crosses (TV, 2020) – 'Lieutenant Lekan Baako', BBC
Wonder Woman 1984 (Film, 2020) – 'Emerson', Warner Bros
Three Sisters (Theatre, 2019-2020) – 'Igwe', National Theatre
The Drifters (Film, 2019) – 'Koffee',
The Brothers Size (Theatre, 2018) – 'Oshoosi', Young Vic
A Midsummer Night's Dream in New Orleans (Ruby in the Dust 2015) (Theatre, 2015) – 'Lysander', Ruby in the Dust at Above The Arts
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