Chiwetel Ejiofor thinks his name has helped his career.

The 38-year-old actor - whose was born in London to Nigerian parents - was advised to change his surname when he was first starting out to avoid only being offered African parts, but he refused to do so and thinks it has actually given him more opportunities.

He said: ''I couldn't understand what the problem was. I mean, bring it on. Let's do that!

''They seemed to think it was a negative, but it allowed me to work in Africa, in England and in the States.''

Though he has been working in theatre since he was 15 years old, the 'Martian' actor never imagined he'd make it as a film star.

He said: ''I didn't think I had a chance of being a film actor. My focus was trying to get into the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) or the National Theatre. The thought of being a star never occurred to me.''

And Chiwetel's mother initially wasn't very happy with his career ambitions.

He said: ''I got good grades, so she wanted me to go to university at least. But at 15 I was quite wilful and demanding. I got a scholarship to MALDA and said I'd support myself with this job and that. It was a fait accompli, you know.''

The '12 Years a Slave' star's sister, Zain Asher, is a news anchor for CNN, a job he admits he isn't cut out for.

He told Red magazine: ''I'm too sensitive to do what my sister does. She's interacting with the reality of the social and political world. It would drive me completely nuts.''