African American actors have reimagined historical characters through biopics, or flipped the script on fictional, but powerful characters that portray the Black identity through positive lenses.
Here are five Black actors that you should know about:
At 15-years-old, Jalyn Hall played Emmett Till in the motion-picture film Till, opposite Dominique Deadwyler who portrayed his mother. He also played Dillon James on All American.
Hall has a thing for attracting roles of historically important African American characters, as he’s been cast as the young Martin Luther King Jr. in the Disney + / National Geographic anthology series Genius: MLK/X.
If you watched Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, you probably already know Angela Bassett. While she was already present in the first one, it was in the sequel that Queen Ramonda ate. For her role as Queen Ramonda, she won the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress.
She’s been working since the late 1980s, and has earned many awards for her achievements in film and TV.
Bassett usually plays real life self-assured but nice, African-American women. She avoids the “iron-fist kind of strong” archetype, and has turned down roles she’s seen as demeaning to her image.
Quintessa Swindell is a 25-year-old non-binary actor best known for playing Anna in Euphoria, but also most recently playing Maxine Hunkel (Cyclone) in Black Adam.
She’s opened up about nonbinary struggles finding roles acting their own gender, but has played cisgender roles that explore Black identity, such as her work as Tabitha Foster in Netflix’s teen drama, Trinkets.
To prepare for her role as Cyclone, she studied with expert dancers and researched early modern dance pioneers, Isadora Duncan and Loie Fuller, to better achieve the graceful motions that distinguish the young heroine with the ability of wind manipulation.
Naomi Ackie starred as Whitney Houston in the Sony Biopic Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody, but her fans probably know her as Jannah already from Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, or as Bonnie from The End of the F***ing World.
Naomi dicslosed in an interview that preparing for the role of one of her icons, Houston, made her nervous. Her biggest challenge was letting her fear of the magnitude of the task take a back seat, as nothing good comes from sitting in fear for too long.
Ackie is a British actress with range, that’s for sure. Her first role was as the angel Gabriel at eleven years old, for a Christmas school play.
Austin Johnson is best known for playing Jason in the 2019 feature film, Five Feet Apart, alongside Cole Sprouse and Haley Lu Richardson.
He made his acting debut playing Randy Metcalfe in an episode of the TV docuseries, Swamp Murders.
Acting since the age of three, he’s discussed his personal experience as an LGBTQ actor.