Everywhere we look, famous black actors are making the global black community proud by taking on roles that shake things up and leave the world at least a slightly better place than it was before. From African American to Black British origins, these hugely influential current actors are making history not only in Hollywood but also in the world of streaming. In this list, we will focus on contemporary actors.
In the span of his 44-year career (and counting), this legendary American actor has achieved several milestones, ranking as the greatest actor of the 21st century in 2020 according to the New York Times. Starting his acting career in theatre, Denzel has starred in films such as Spike Lee’s Inside Man (2006), Ridley Scott’s American Gangster (2007) and Antoine Fuqua’s The Magnificent Seven (2016). He acted in and produced the multiple award winning film adaptation of August Wilson’s 1982 play Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020), also starring Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman (may his soul forever rest in peace).
Born to Nigerian parents, the British actor is known for his work on the stage as well as in film and television. In 2016 he starred in Donmar Warehouse’s production of Kemp Powers’ play One Night in Miami, playing a young Cassius Clay (before he changed his name to Muhammad Ali). Since then, he has played roles in thriller film His House (2020) and TV shows like Gangs of London and Black Mirror.
The 84-year old American actor is universally recognised as the owner of the most calming and voice-over worthy voice in the world, making him a highly sought-after narrator in Hollywood. He has acted in films including Shawshank Redemption (1994), Bruce Almighty (playing the role of God,2003), Now You See Me (2013) and The Dark Night trilogy in addition to numerous TV shows and stage productions .
The British heartthrob rose to prominence in 2017 playing Franklin Saint in the late John Singleton’s ongoing FX television series, Snowfall. Aside from the actor’s stellar performance, perhaps what struck fans of the show the most was the actor’s command of the South Central (Los Angeles) accent required for the role, which is so far removed from his own. He has also starred in Farming (2018) alongside Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and Genevieve Nnaji, Black Mirror episode Smithereens (2019) and Netflix blockbuster Outside the Wire (2021) (with co-star Anthony Mackie). His acting journey began when he enrolled at university to study Theatre, Film & Television and was propelled afterwards at the Identity School of Acting, where the likes of John Boyega and Letitia Wright trained.
Born Eric Marlon Bishop, the American actor is also a comedian, singer-songwriter and record producer. He has featured in films like Dreamgirls (2006), Django Unchained (2012), Baby Driver (2017) and Horrible Bosses (2011). A BAFTA, Academy and Golden Globes Awards winner, Jamie Foxx is also a Grammy Award winning musician.
Starting off his career as a fashion model, the English actor has acted in Hollywood for decades in movies such as The Mummy Returns (2001), Thor: The Dark World (2013), Pompeii (2014), Suicide Squad (2016) and Farming (2018). The latter, starring Damson Idris, was also his directorial debut, outlining the story of his troubled childhood and adolescence.
The much beloved American actor was lost to colon cancer last year, shocking co-workers and fans alike. With a degree in directing from HBCU Howard University, he went into roles and films that will remain timeless, the most notable being as the eponymous T’Challa in Black Panther (2018), the 18th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). He also acted in Gods of Egypt (2016), Captain America: Civil War (2016), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), Avengers: Endgame (2019), 21 Bridges (2019) and posthumous release Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020).
The British actor and writer rose to fame in Jordan Peele’s directorial debut Get Out (2017), following that with a main role in the MCU’s Black Panther (2018) a year later. He has also acted in Queen & Slim (2019) and Judas and the Black Messiah (2021), for which he won several awards (including a BAFTA, an Academy, Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild Award) and is due to star in Jordan Peele’s upcoming film Nope. Daniel has also appeared in TV shows including Skins and Black Mirror.
Samuel L. Jackson
Achieving a grand level of fame, the films the Black American actor has appeared in have collectively grossed an estimate of $27 billion worldwide, making him the second highest grossing actor of all time after the late Stan Lee. He has featured in films including Juice (1992, with Tupac Shakur), cult classic Pulp Fiction (1994), Kill Bill: Volume 2 (2004), Coach Carter (2005), Snakes on a Plane (2006), Django Unchained (2012), The Hateful Eight (2015) and The Hitman’s Bodyguard (2017). The multiple award-winning veteran actor has also played the character of Nick Fury in the MCU from its very first film Iron Man (2008) till the present.
From films like Daddy’s Little Girls (2007), American Gangster (2007) and Prom Night (2008) to Obsessed (2009, co-starring Beyoncé) and Beasts of No Nation (2015), the OBE honoured English actor always gives his audience an impressive performance. He is also a frequent voice actor, voicing main characters in animated films Zootopia (2016) and Jungle Book (2016), and plays Heimdall in the MCU.
The British actor trained at the Identity School of Acting in Hackney, which has produced the likes of Letitia Wright, Damson Idris and Chance Perdomo. His first role of note was in sci-fi film Attack the Block in 2011 and Pacific Rim: Uprising (2018), cementing his legacy in the Star Wars film franchise in the films Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019). Boyega’s activism is admirable, as shown when he publicly spoke out in solidarity with George Floyd and other victims of police brutality during a Black Lives Matter protest in London in 2020.
This article highlights only a few of the many iconic black actors making waves in the film industry. These incredible talents are showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon and we love them for it!
Check our previous post, highlighting 11 iconic black actresses in contemporary culture and stay tuned to Euphoria for the most exclusive indie films, interviews, and live Q&As you can participate in.