Nyambi Nyambi has always done things on his own terms. He was told by a teacher, who was involved in a Martin Luther King gala being performed on his university campus, that he didn't belong in the cast. To which he responded, "I am going to study his speech, his (mannerisms), the speech behind the speech. I am going to become Martin Luther King so much so that you won’t have any question". And he did.
Born in Norman, Oklahoma to Nigerian parents, Nyambi played Division I basketball while attending college at Bucknell University; and after graduating, he earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in acting at New York University.
(Photo: The Good Fight/CBS)
From hoops to the small screen
Nyambi took up acting in his senior year at Bucknell, after he decided, against his teacher's objections, that he would play MLK Jnr. According to Nyambi:
"That was my way of having fun and really diving into it, but I never called it acting, or (thought) that it was professional acting."
But then, (former) Professor Glyne Griffith said to him, after the MLK production, "Nyambi, you are an actor". Partially because of the success of that production, and the professor’s words, he decided to pursue acting.
After graduation in Lewisburg, Nyambi’s parents wanted him to go to Yale for grad school. Nyambi applied there, but, bitten by the acting bug, he also applied to New York University.
Nyambi landed several theatrical roles at NYU and after graduating, was determined to make it in the business. He did numerous auditions and eventually landed a television commercial.
(Photo: Bobby Quillard/NewsOk)
He went on to get a small part in the independent film, Day Night Day Night. He then appeared in the episode, "Four Cops Shot" in the final season of Law & Order, and in an independent film, William Vincent alongside James Franco and Josh Lucas.
He got stage roles in Caliban in a 2008 Classic Stage Company production of The Tempest, and in a 2009 production of Athol Fugard's Coming Home at The Wilma Theater in Philadelphia.
His Big Break
Nyambi's big break came when he landed the role of Samuel, a sarcastic and hilarious Senegalese waiter in the Emmy-winning comedy, Mike & Molly. The show's creator, Chuck Lorre (Two and a Half Men, The Big Bang Theory) asked Nyambi what he knew about acting and he told him, “Nothing.” Lorre told him, “That’s great, that’s a good attitude to come in with.”
After Mike & Molly ended in 2016, Nyambi joined The Good Wife spin-off, The Good Fight as Jay DiPersia, a skilled investigator at a predominantly black firm. In the first season he was a recurring character, and in the ongoing second season, he is a regular cast member.
(Photo: Mike & Molly/CBS)
The second season of The Good Fight has largely grappled with the effects of Trump's presidency. The most recent episode of the show, "Day 485", focused on Nyambi's character, Jay. Viewers learned that Jay was born to Nigerian parents, like Nyambi. But unlike Nyambi, Jay was actually born in Nigeria, but his parents then brought him to the United States and forged his birth certificate. Now everyone in his firm has to fight to keep him in the country.
Jay is in a truly terrible position: facing deportation to a country he knows nothing about. The firm’s last hope is to find a way to get Jay an "Einstein visa", which allows immigrants who make significant contributions to the culture to stay in the U.S. They decide to appeal for one using Jay’s artwork — it's worth noting that Nyambi is also an artist. The episode ends with a peaceful shot: a newly-freed Jay whistling as he strolls out of court.
As great as the episode was, we have to point out that Nyambi's acting was the real standout. He played Jay's fear and terror with such nuance and ownership that it was hard to separate the actor from the character. Nyambi is certainly an actor that not only deserves more roles, but deserves our undivided attention as well.
(Photo: The Good Fight/CBS)
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