Aduba was born in Boston, Massachusetts, as the daughter of Nigerian parents of Igbo origin in Anambra State, her full name being Uzoamaka Nwanneka Aduba. She grew up in Medfield, Massachusetts. She graduated from Medfield High School in 1999 and later attended Boston University, where she studied classical voice and competed in track and field including the 55-meter dash and the 200-meter dash. She describes her family as a "sports family". Her younger brother, Obi, played hockey at the University of Massachusetts and went on to play six seasons professionally.
She began earning recognition for her acting in 2003, with a performance in Translations of Xhosa at the Olney Theatre Center for the Arts that earned her a Helen Hayes Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress in a Play.
Her Broadway debut was in 2007 as Toby in Coram Boy. She was a member of the Original Revival Cast of Godspell at the Circle in the Square Theatre from 2011 through 2012. She also played the mother of the title character of Venice at The Public Theater in New York.
Her first television appearance was on Blue Bloods in 2012.
"I auditioned for the show back in late July or early August of . I had been auditioning that summer for more television and film [after doing much theater]. I'd read a lot of scripts and I remember reading "Orange Is the New Black," and it was at the head of the pack. I remember thinking, "Wow, that is really good, I would love to be a part of that." I went in and auditioned for another part, and my representatives called me about a month later and they were like, "Hi, we have some really good news. You remember that audition you went on for 'Orange Is the New Black'? You didn't get it." I go, "So… okay, what's the good news?" They said they wanted to offer me another part, Crazy Eyes. I was like, "What in my audition would make someone think I'd be right for a part called Crazy Eyes?" But to be honest, when I got the script for it, it felt like the right fit."
Casting director Jennifer Euston explains the selection of Aduba for the role thus: "Uzo Aduba had her hair in those knots for the audition. They saw something amazing in her and were able to connect it to what they were looking for in Crazy Eyes." In joining the series, Aduba obtained her Screen Actors Guild card, about which she says, "I was just like, 'Wow, this means I'm a full actor now.' It was such a big deal, and I remember being so thankful and feeling so proud." She has been recognized for her performance as "Crazy Eyes": Aduba won Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series at the 66th Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards as well as Best Guest Performer in a Comedy Series at the 4th Critics' Choice Television Awards and was nominated for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film at the 18th Satellite Awards for her season 1 performance. Aduba's season 2 performance earned her the Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series as well as recognition for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series at the 21st Screen Actors Guild Awards and a nomination Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film at the 72nd Golden Globe Awards. She won a second Primetime Emmy at the 67th Primetime Emmy Awards in 2015, winning the award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series. This makes her the first actress to win both a drama and comedy Emmy for the same role.
As E! News exclusively reported, Aduba played Glinda the Good Witch in NBC's live production of The Wiz airing on December 3 2015.
Aduba then appeared in animated comedy "Alvin and the Chipmunks" as a TSA agent.