Monday, December 17, 2012

Black Diaspora in Hollywood 2.0

Watching Sunday night's Homeland finale, which brutally and ironically dispatched one of my favorite characters from the show, CIA Counterintelligence Chief David Estes, superbly embodied by British actor David Harewood (see below), I recalled that during Black History Month in 2006 I wrote a blog post pointing out the sizable number of black actors from across the African Diaspora now in Hollywood, and featured stars including Idris Elba, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Adewale Akinnoye-Agbaje, Thandie Newton, Chiwetel Edjiofor, Garcelle Beauvais, and Boris Kodjoe. I noted then that I hadn't seen any discussion at all of this reality in the mainstream media, though the black film and TV communities in the US appeared to be acknowledging the diversity of their talent pool, and, like the larger black communities across the country, reflected the truth that the US black population has always comprised people from all over the world. As far as cinema and TV go, you need only cite iconic non-US-born black actors from the past such as Sidney PoitierHarry Belafonte, Juano Hernández, Frank Silvera, Austin Stoker, Percy Rodriguez, and Zakes Mokae to bear this out.

As of 2012, the trend continues; just as with white actors in Hollywood, a number of high-profile black stars of film and TV shows are originally from overseas, but have found roles and homes (even if temporarily) here. The list below suggests that black actors from several different parts of the globe are making their names and careers in the US. Some, like Mel B, play themselves; some, like Dania Ramirez, are able to get roles crossing ethnicities; others like, Harewood and Oyelowo, quite effortlessly slip into African American/unspecified black roles without much problem. The British actors have gained considerable attention, and it remains the case that in the UK, roles for talented black actors are scarce.  In Hollywood, there are many more roles, but few leading ones, outside biopics, for actors of the caliber of many of these folks or their African American colleagues. As the country darkens, though, one can hope.... Here are a few of the most notable contemporary black diaspora actors gracing US TV screens:

David Harewood (UK)
Homeland, Blood Diamond
Ashley Madekwe (UK)
Revenge, Drop Dead Gorgeous
David Oyelowo (UK)
Red Tails, Last King of Scotland, Lincoln, The Help
Naomie Harris (UK)
Skyfall, Miami Vice, 28 Days Later
Benjamin Charles Watson (Jamaica/Canada)
L. A. Complex
Gloria Reuben (Canada)
ER, Feast of All Saints, Lincoln 
Dayo Ade (Nigeria/Canada)
L. A. Complex, Lost, Let Go, Degrassi High
Dania Ramírez (Dominican Republic)
Entourage, Heroes, Fat Albert, She Hate Me
Dayo Akeniyi (Nigeria)
The Hunger Games
Mel B (Melanie Brown/Scary Spice) (UK)
X Factor, Mel B: It's a Scary World
Dwain Murphy (Canada)
Saving Hope, The Mentalist, How She Move 
Enuka Okuma (Canada)
Rookie Blue, 24, Andromeda 
Lyriq Bent (Canada)
Rookie Blue, Saw III, Saw IV, Four Brothers
Marsha Thomason (UK) 
2 Broke Girls, General Hospital, Lost
Peter Mensah (Ghana/Canada)
Avatar, True Blood, Spartacus
Lorraine Toussaint (Trinidad & Tobago)
Scandal, Friday Night Lights, Saving Grace, Ugly Betty
Rocsi (Díaz) (Honduras)
106 & Park, Brothers, Soul Ties

Aml Ameen (UK)
Harry's Law, Red Tails, CSI Miami
Harriet Lenabe (South Africa) [shown with Don Cheadle)
The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, Hotel Rwanda
Nonso Anozie (UK)
Game of Thrones, The Grey
Kandyse McClure (South Africa)
Battlestar Galactica, Persons Unknown

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