All over the world, famous black actors are stepping into roles that challenge the imagination, encourage discourse or simply entertain. Whether they are African American, Black British or Nigerian, these current and deeply influential actors are making their mark on Hollywood and the world of streaming. Because there are so many incredible talents to choose from, we’ll focus only on contemporary female actors in this list.
We all know and love the American actor and producer, known for her roles in films such as The Help (2011), Suicide Squad (2016), Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020) and Shonda Rhimes’ hit show, How To Get Away With Murder. A graduate of the Juilliard School, she is the first African-American and the youngest actor to achieve the “Triple Crown of Acting”’ (an Academy Award, an Emmy Award and a Tony Award).
Born in 1996, the American actor and singer rose to fame in her role as Rocky Blue on the Disney Channel sitcom Shake It Up. Since then she has starred as the titular character and co-producer of Disney Channel show K.C. Undercover, the main character in The Greatest Showman (2017) and a recurring character in the Spiderman movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU); namely Spiderman: Homecoming (2017), Spiderman: Far From Home (2019) and Spiderman: No Way Home (2021). She also plays the protagonist in HBO drama Euphoria, which led her to become the youngest winner of the Primetime Emmy Award (for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series); and Marie in the Netflix film Malcolm & Marie (2021). We look forward to her performance in the much anticipated Dune, directed by Denis Villeneuve and due for release in late 2021.
One of the most influential people in the world according to Time Magazine, the American actress is the recipient of a plethora of awards, from Academy Awards to Golden Globe and Primetime Emmy Awards. She has starred in shows like Watchmen to films like Poetic Justice (1993)and A Cinderella Story (2004), making her film directorial debut with the film adaptation of Kemp Powers’ One Night in Miami (2020), for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Director. An impressive feat, she plays the voice of both Riley and Huey Freeman in animated series The Boondocks.
Born in Guyana and raised in England, the BAFTA and NAACP Image Awards winner began her acting journey in about 2011. She is known for acting in the Black Mirror episode “Black Museum”, Guava Island (2019) and MCU films Black Panther (2018), Avengers: Infinity War (2018) and Avengers: Endgame (2019), the latter of which are some of the highest-grossing films of all time. Enrolling at the age of 16, she is an alumnus of the Identity School of Acting in London along with the likes of John Boyega and Damson Idris.
A jack of all trades, the multi-talented British-Ghanaian actor is also a screenwriter, director, producer and singer. She is the creator and lead actress of the E4 sitcom Chewing Gum for which she won a BAFTA and the creator and lead actress of the BBC x HBO show I May Destroy You for which she received a Primetime Emmy Awards nomination.
Widely regarded as the queen of Nollywood, the Nigerian actor has featured in over 80 movies beginning in the late 1980s, making her directorial debut in 2018 with Lionheart in which she starred. The film was also the first Netflix original ever produced in Nigeria. Her filmography includes Sharon Stone in Abuja (2003), Girls Cot (2006), The Mirror Boy (2010), Half of a Yellow Sun (2013) and Farming (2018).
The American actress started her journey on stage in the early 1980s. Since then, she has played memorable characters in The Color Purple (1985), Ghost (1990), Sister Act (1992) as well as its sequel Sister Act: Back in the Habit (1993) and Ryan Murphy’s comedy-drama Glee. She is one of the few recipients of an Emmy, Grammy, Academy and a Tony Award, and has hosted the Academy Awards four times, initially in 1994 making her the first Black woman to solo emcee the award show.
The Kenyan actress was born in Mexico and raised in Kenya from the age of one, starting out in Hollywood as a production assistant. With two degrees from Hampshire College and Yale University, her filmography includes 12 Years A Slave (2013), Black Panther (2018) and Us (2019).
The American actress, singer and television personality rose to fame in 2006 as the eponymous character in Doug Atchison’s Akeelah and the Bee (2006), after which she went on to star in her Nickelodeon show True Jackson, VP and in Ryan Murphy’s satirical comedy slasher Scream Queens. Having played a main character in the 2019 crime drama Hustlers, which featured an all-star cast, the young actress is set to play the leading female role in Jordan Peele’s upcoming horror film Nope in 2022 alongside Daniel Kaluuya. Letitia Wright cites seeing Keke’s performance in Akeelah and the Bee as the primary inspiration that led her to pursue acting.
Taraji P. Henson
The American actor is known across the world for excelling in diverse film roles from those in films like Hidden Figures (2016), Think Like A Man (2012) and Tyler Perry’s wildly controversial psych thriller Acrimony (2108) to roles on TV in shows like Fox’s Empire and CBS’s sci-fi crime drama Person of Interest. She is a ten-time NAACP Image Awards winner with a Golden Globe award under her belt and multiple other awards and award nominations.
Not yet eighteen years old, the American actor has already won multiple NAACP awards. She is most famous for her role as Diane Johnson in Kenya Barris’ Black-ish and as a young Jordan Sanders in Little (2019) which she co-produced, becoming the youngest executive producer in Hollywood at 14 years old. Her company, Genius Productions signed a first-look deal with Universal Pictures in 2019 and is working on StepMonster, its first film. This also makes her not only the youngest person to ever get a first-look deal with Universal, but also the youngest to get a deal at any studio.
This only spotlights a few of the many revered actors out in the film industry. From Gen Z to millennials and Black Africans to Black Americans, these incredible talents are a source of inspiration for many.
Look out for our next post, highlighting 11 iconic black actors in contemporary culture on the journal section of our website and stay tuned to Euphoria for the most exclusive indie films, interviews and live Q&As which you can participate in.