Mamoudou Athie: Meet the Mauritanian-born actor who is now a leading man in Hollywood

Ama Nunoo October 15, 2020
Mamoudou Athie for Nylon magazine by Carla Tramullas NY June 2017

Mauritanian-born actor Mamoudou Athie began charming audiences with his smile in 2015 but not until his roles in The Circle and The Get Down did he catch start becoming a household name. His recent Netflix movie, Uncorked also made audiences see his versatility on screen. Athie is at it again playing the lead role in the new Blumhouse thriller, Black Box.

Starring alongside everyone’s favorite mum, Phylicia Rashad, the 33-year old plays a father who lost his wife as well as his memory in a car accident and ends up becoming the subject of a horrendous medical experiment by an unorthodox doctor, Rashad.

The Mauritanian-American is the son of a diplomat father who sought political asylum in the US with a six-month-old Athie.

He received training at the William Esper Studio after enrolling in their two-year professional actor training program and he is a 2014 graduate of Yale School of Drama. He plays Nolan Wright in Black Box and according to him, working with the best team brings out the best in any actor.

“The more you work, the better you get and the more experience you gain. Especially if you work with good people like Phylicia Rashad. Good people is an understatement when you work with such brilliant people as Madame Rashad and Emmanuel. It can only be a blessing for your creativity and learning. It certainly has been for me,” Athie said in an interview with

The film was shot at the height of the pandemic under strict hygienic and safety measures with actors and crew having COVID-19 tests thrice a week.

Of this, the actor explained: “The advantage of big productions is that they have the means to carry out their projects. We were in a bubble where we were all safe. It was much safer than when I lived in Los Angeles. We were being tested three times a week, which is quite incredible. We wore protective masks on the set. It was reassuring. It couldn’t have gone better.”

Black Box is directed by yet another talented son of the continent, Ghanaian- American Emmanuel Osei Kuffour Jr who began his career in Japan. The award-winning director is known for telling real and sensitive human-centered stories and Black Box fits well into his portfolio.

Athie knew at a very tender age that he would be acting until he was about 80 years old, according to him. His enthusiasm for the craft was rekindled in the final year of graduate school after his stint in Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s The Visit.  He described the script of The Visit as stellar which made him accept the role but that was not the only reason. He was “moved” by the community’s reaction to the performance.

Athie, who grew up in Maryland, has always had the desire to connect genuinely with his audiences.

“I had never heard of it before … It was essentially about people, greed and regret and what people are willing to do for money,” he said. ““I saw that the play really affected people and I was like, ‘Oh, this is how I can do this until I’m 80. Doing projects like this and feeling useful and having the chance to affect people.”

Black Box is now streaming on various platforms.

Last Edited by:Nii Ntreh Updated: October 15, 2020


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