Zawe Ashton

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Zawe Ashton

Zawe ashton 2021 1.jpg
Ashton at the 74th Tony Awards in October 2021
Zawedde Emma Ashton[1]

(1984-07-25) 25 July 1984 (age 38)
Hackney, London, England
  • Actress
  • narrator
  • playwright
Years active1995–present
RelativesPaulo Muwanga (grandfather)

Zawedde Emma "Zawe" Ashton[2][3] FRSL (/ˈzɑːwi/; born 25 July 1984) is an English actress, narrator, playwright, and director. She is best known for her roles in the comedy dramas Fresh Meat and Not Safe for Work, the Netflix horror thriller film Velvet Buzzsaw and for her portrayal of Joyce Carol Vincent in Dreams of a Life (2011). She will join the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a villain in The Marvels (2023).

Early life[edit]

Ashton was born in Hackney, London, on 25 July 1984.[4] She is the eldest of three children born to a Ugandan mother, Victoria,[5] and an English father, Paul Ashton.[6] She attended the Anna Scher Theatre School from the age of six and was a member of the National Youth Theatre. She gained her degree in acting at the Manchester School of Theatre.[7][8] Her maternal grandfather, Paulo Muwanga, was formerly President and Prime Minister of Uganda.[6]



Her theatre credits include Harold Pinter's Betrayal at The Harold Pinter Theatre, London and the Bernard B. Jacob's Theatre, Broadway. Rhinoceros, The Arsonists, Gone Too Far! (Royal Court), Othello (Globe Theatre), Frontline (Globe Theatre), All The Little Things We Crushed (Almeida), This Wide Night (Soho Theatre), Michael Frayn's comedy Here (The Rose Theatre Kingston), Abi Morgan’s Splendour (Donmar Warehouse), John Genet's The Maids (Trafalgar Studios), Salome in Salome (Headlong Theatre / Hampstead Theatre). In June 2010 Ashton was awarded 2nd prize at the Ian Charleson Awards for her classical performance in Salome.

Ashton at the 2013 British Comedy Awards

Her film credits include Velvet Buzzsaw, directed by Dan Gilroy for Netflix, Dreams of a Life directed by Carol Morley, for which she was nominated in the Most Promising Newcomer category at the 2012 British Independent Film Awards, St. Trinian's 2: The Legend of Fritton's Gold, Blitz, Nocturnal Animals, directed by Tom Ford, Greta directed by Neil Jordan.

Her TV credits include Vod in the Channel 4 comedy Fresh Meat, Claire in the six-part BBC One / Netflix series Wanderlust,[9] Journey Blue in Doctor Who, BBC, and Katherine in Not Safe For Work for Channel 4. As a child, Ashton appeared in two episodes of The Demon Headmaster.

In February 2021 it was announced that she would play a villain in The Marvels. It is scheduled to be released on 28 July 2023.[10]


In May 2010, Ashton was named as one of the "55 faces of the future" by Nylon magazine's Young Hollywood Issue. In October 2012, she was awarded the "Ultimate Newcomer" trophy by Cosmopolitan magazine at their Women of the Year awards. In November 2012 Ashton picked up the Creative Diversity Network Award for Best Breakthrough On-Screen Talent for her role as Vod in the BAFTA-nominated Channel 4 hit Fresh Meat. In 2013, Ashton won a Screen Nation Award for Female Performance in a Film 2012/2013, in recognition of her lead role performance in Dreams of a Life.


Ashton began entering poetry slams at the age of seventeen,[7] and won the London Poetry Slam Championship in 2000.[11] In 2006 she was Young Writer in Residence at the Contact Theatre in Manchester.[11] Her first play, Harm's Way, was shortlisted for the Verity Bargate Award in 2007,[7] and premiered at the Lowry, Salford in 2008 as part of the National Youth Theatre’s new writing season. Her other plays have included Skunk, performed by the National Youth Theatre and Soho Theatre; and She from the Sea, performed in 2010 at the London International Festival of Theatre (LIFT).[12] Ashton was co-writer of, Bush Futures Programme. One of her plays, For all the Women Who Thought They Were Mad, was selected to be part of the Royal Court Playwriting Festival in 2009.[8][11] Ashton contributed to the writing of The Children's Monologues, adapted from over 300 original stories by Tswana, Zulu and Sesotho children in South Africa and presented by Dramatic Need in 2010.[13] She has worked with the Bush Theatre and the Clean Break theatre company.[14]

In 2019, Ashton published her first book, Character Breakdown, a fictionalized memoir based on her experiences as an actress.[15]

She was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in July 2021.[16]

Other work[edit]

Ashton narrated thirteen episodes of 24 Hours in Police Custody, shown on Channel 4 in 2016 and 2017. She narrated a documentary Public Enemies: Jay-Z vs Kanye for the same channel in 2017.[citation needed]

In 2017, Ashton presented the third series of Random Acts, Channel 4's short film showcase in association with Arts Council England. Episode 2 included a film directed by Ashton, in which she took the lead role.[17][18]

Personal life[edit]

In March 2022, it was announced that Ashton is engaged to English actor Tom Hiddleston. The two co-starred in the 2019 play Betrayal.[19][20][21][22] In June 2022, it was revealed they are expecting their first child.[23]

Acting credits[edit]

Ashton in February 2013


Year Title Role Notes
2009 St. Trinian's II: The Legend of Fritton's Gold Bianca
2011 Blitz WPC Elizabeth Falls
2011 Weekender Sarah
2011 Dreams of a Life Joyce Vincent
2014 The Place We Go to Hide Director only; short film
2014 Happy Toys Director only; short film
2016 Nocturnal Animals Alex
2018 Greta Alexa Hammond
2019 Velvet Buzzsaw Josephina
2022 Mr. Malcolm's List Julia Thistlewaite
2023 The Marvels TBA Post-production


Year Title Role Notes
1995 Game On Little Girl Episode: "Bad Timing"
1996 The Demon Headmaster Rebecca 2 episodes
2000 The Bill Kylie Episodes: "Meltdown: Part 2 & Part 3"
2002 In Deep Jade 2 episodes
2003 Holby City Abigail Meredith Episode: "Crossing the Line"
2007 Mobile Eyewitness 2 episodes
2008 The Bill Becka Adams Episode: "Gun Runner: Under Cover"
2009 Casualty Gina Episode: "True Lies"
2010 Sherlock Sally Donovan Episode: unaired pilot
2010 Misfits Jessica Episode: "#2.5"
2011–2013 Case Histories Deborah Arnold 8 episodes
2011–2016 Fresh Meat Violet "Vod" Nordstrom Main role (30 episodes)
2011 Lapland Jingle Jill TV film
2014 Doctor Who Journey Blue Episode: "Into the Dalek"
2015 Not Safe For Work Katherine Main role (6 episodes)
2017 Guerrilla Omega Miniseries (5 episodes)
Sarah & Duck Hairdresser Episode: "Hair Cut"
2018 Wanderlust Claire Pascal 5 episodes
2021 The Handmaid's Tale Oona 3 episodes
2022 Maryland Mary TV film[24][25]


Year Title Role Venue Notes Ref.
2007 Othello Bianca The Globe [26]
Rhinoceros Daisy Royal Court [27]
The Arsonists Anna Royal Court [27]
The Cage Nicola Nuffield Theatre [28]
2008 Gone Too Far! Armani Royal Court [29]
The Front Line Casey The Globe [30]
2009 All The Little Things We Crushed Zoe Almeida Theatre
This Wide Night Marie Soho Theatre [31]
2010 Salome Salome Curve Theatre [32]
2010 The Children's Monologues The Old Vic / Royal Court Theatre Writer only
2012 Here Cath Rose Theatre [33]
2015 Splendour Gilma Donmar Warehouse [34][35]
2016 The Maids Claire Trafalgar Studios [36]
2018 The Hardest Rain The Old Vic Writer only [36]
2019 For All the Women Who Thought They Were Mad Hackney Showroom / Soho Repertory Theatre Writer only [37][38]
Betrayal Emma Harold Pinter Theatre / Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre [39][40]


  1. ^ "Zawe Ashton | 8 Minutes With The Pool | Women We Love". The Pool. 17 August 2017. Archived from the original on 12 December 2021. Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  2. ^ Edel, Victoria (30 June 2022). "Zawe Ashton on Bringing Her "Quirky" Love Story to Life in "Mr. Malcolm's List"". POPSUGAR Entertainment. Retrieved 1 July 2022.
  3. ^ Gilbert, Gerard (29 September 2012). "Zawe Ashton: 'The views expressed here are not my own'". The Independent. Archived from the original on 7 May 2022. Retrieved 13 January 2014.
  4. ^ @ZaweAshton (21 July 2013). "Its officially the 25th" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  5. ^ Adewummi, Bim (4 November 2013). "Fresh Meat's Zawe Ashton, AKA Vod, is the coolest thing on TV right now". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 March 2015.
  6. ^ a b Heawood, Sophie (16 January 2016). "'I always play extreme characters': Zawe Ashton on life after Fresh Meat". The Guardian.
  7. ^ a b c Williams, Karla (June 2009). "ATN Interview with Zawe Ashton, The Frontline". Afridiziak Theatre News. Retrieved 17 August 2009.
  8. ^ a b Bourke, Kevin (28 March 2008). "Into Harm's Way". City Life. Retrieved 17 August 2009.
  9. ^ Szalai, Georg (7 November 2017). "Toni Collette Leads Cast of BBC, Netflix's 'Wanderlust'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 9 February 2019.
  10. ^ Blessing, Ethan (12 February 2021). "Zawe Ashton Joins Brie Larson in 'Captain Marvel 2'". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 12 February 2021.
  11. ^ a b c Agency Listing - Zawe Ashton The Rod Hall Agency Limited. Retrieved on 17 August 2009.
  12. ^ "LIFT 2010 leaflet" (PDF). Retrieved 18 November 2016.
  13. ^ "The Children's Monologues". Retrieved 11 June 2020.
  14. ^ Zawe Ashton | Features | Screen Retrieved on 17 August 2009.
  15. ^ Hayes, Martha (3 March 2019). "'I hate talking about class': Zawe Ashton on acting, privilege and being bullied". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 May 2020.
  16. ^ "RSL announces 44 new Fellows and Honorary Fellows". The Royal Society of Literature. 6 July 2021. Retrieved 8 July 2021.
  17. ^ "Random Acts - Episode Guide". Channel 4. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  18. ^ "Random Acts". Arts Council England. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  19. ^ Alexander, Susannah (27 September 2021). "Loki's Tom Hiddleston confirms relationship with Zawe Ashton". Digital Spy. Retrieved 10 December 2021.
  20. ^ Gibson, Kelsie (14 March 2022). "Tom Hiddleston and Zawe Ashton's Relationship Timeline". People. Retrieved 14 March 2022.
  21. ^ Juneau, Jen (14 March 2022). "Date Night! Tom Hiddleston Steps Out with Girlfriend Zawe Ashton at 2022 BAFTA Awards". People. Retrieved 14 March 2022.
  22. ^ Gioia, Michael; VanHoose, Benjamin (17 March 2022). "Tom Hiddleston and Zawe Ashton's Sweet Love Story: Newly Engaged Couple Have a 'Lovely Chemistry'". People. Retrieved 17 March 2022.
  23. ^ Valenti, Lauren (30 June 2022). "How Zawe Ashton Got Ready for a Special Screening of Mr. Malcolm's List". Retrieved 30 June 2022.
  25. ^ "Zawe Ashton on feeling galvanised after new film about violence against women". belfasttelegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 14 July 2022.
  26. ^ "Othello / Shakespeare's Globe". Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  27. ^ a b Benedict, David (14 November 2007). "The Arsonists". Variety. Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  28. ^ "THE CAGE - deborah gearing - playwright". Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  29. ^ Billington, Michael (29 July 2008). "Gone Too Far!". the Guardian. Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  30. ^ "The FrontLine". 8 June 2016. Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  31. ^ Gardner, Lyn (27 November 2009). "This Wide Night - Theatre review". the Guardian. Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  32. ^ Hickling, Alfred (13 May 2010). "Salome - Theatre review". the Guardian. Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  33. ^ Billington, Michael (30 April 2012). "Here – review". the Guardian. Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  34. ^ Billington, Michael (5 August 2015). "Splendour review – Abi Morgan puts four women in the firing line". the Guardian. Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  35. ^ "Splendour (Donmar Warehouse)". Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  36. ^ a b "Monologues, Storytelling and the Science of Generosity - The Old Vic". Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  37. ^ "For All the Women Who Thought They Were Mad". Hackney Showroom. 20 February 2018. Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  38. ^ Clement, Olivia (4 September 2019). "Soho Rep. Unveils 2019–2020 Season". Playbill. Retrieved 8 September 2019.
  39. ^ Wood, Alex (10 January 2019). "Zawe Ashton and Charlie Cox cast in Betrayal with Tom Hiddleston | WhatsOnStage". Retrieved 24 February 2019.
  40. ^ Lefkowitz, Andy (14 August 2019). "Betrayal Arrives on Broadway with Tom Hiddleston, Zawe Ashton & Charlie Cox | Broadway.Com". Retrieved 24 August 2019.

External links[edit]