Paapa Essiedu

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Paapa Essiedu (born 1990) is a British actor. He is known for his work in theatre, though he has also worked in film and television.

He won the 2016 Ian Charleson Award for his Hamlet in Hamlet and his Edmund in King Lear, both at the Royal Shakespeare Company.[1][2][3] The judges described his Hamlet as one the audience listened to "completely still", and they noted that as an actor he could turn on a sixpence – sweet, playful and flirtatious one minute, and fiercely intelligent the next. "Like all great actors," a judge noted, he "made all the lines his own". His Edmund in King Lear was noted for his chilling contempt and cynicism.[1]

Early life[edit]

Born in 1990, Essiedu grew up in East London with his mother, who was a fashion and design teacher, his family comes from Ghana, where he has a half brother and sister. He won a scholarship to The Forest School, Walthamstow and his ambition as he grew older was to become a doctor.[4] Essiedu became more involved with Shakespeare when he was accepted into the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He takes inspiration from his favourite actors: Mark Rylance, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Simon Russell Beale, David Thewlis and Gary Oldman.


Essiedu joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2012 to play Fenton in Phillip Breen's production of The Merry Wives of Windsor. Afterwards, he went to the National Theatre, playing Burgundy and understudying Edmund in Sam Mendes’ production of King Lear. When Sam Troughton lost his voice during a performance, Essiedu, then his understudy, stepped in and played the role to critical acclaim.[5] He has acted in Outside on the Street (Pleasance Theatre), Black Jesus (Finborough Theatre), Romeo and Juliet (Tobacco Factory), You For Me For You (Royal Court), and most recently the title role in Hamlet and Edmund in King Lear, both at the (Royal Shakespeare Company).

Essiedu has set up a theatre company, Invertigo, with Steffan Donnelly, Tim Bowie and Sion Alun Davies.



Year Title Role
2013 Black Jesus Gabriel
2014 King Lear Burgundy
2015 Romeo and Juliet Romeo
2015 You For Me For You Wade
2016 Hamlet Hamlet
2016 King Lear Edmund


Year Title Role Notes
2013 Utopia Roy - Episode #1.4 (2013)

- Episode #1.1 (2013)

2015 Not Safe For Work Paul - Episode #1.5 (2015)
2016 A Midsummer Night's Dream Demetrius


  1. ^ a b Hawkins, Helen. "Paapa Essiedu wins the Ian Charleson award 2016". Sunday Times. 11 June 2017.
  2. ^ Snow, Georgia. "Paapa Essiedu wins 2016 Ian Charleson award". The Stage. 6 June 2017.
  3. ^ "Ian Charleson Awards 2016". 6 June 2017.
  4. ^ Kellaway, Interview by Kate (2016-03-13). "Paapa Essiedu: You can’t live with your heart on your sleeve". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2016-04-08. 
  5. ^ Beaumont-Thomas, Ben (2014-01-23). "Actor loses voice on stage during Sam Mendes's King Lear". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2016-04-08.