Over the years, African-American characters have dominated the film and TV world, their names featuring prominent co-stars in some of the best films and TV shows. From Boston to The Wire, televisions feature phenomenal black male actors.
This article is all about some nine male characters who have been leading the charge in film and TV.
Denzel Washington was born in Mount Vernon, New York, on December 28, 1954. He is the second born in his family.
After high school, Denzel joined Fordham University, intending to pursue journalism. However, he gained interest in acting, and after graduating, went on to enroll at American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. After a year, he was out there seeking work as an actor.
His first role as an actor was in Wings of the Morning. This was a theater stage production in which he acted as a real historical character (Mathias De Sousa). This opened doors for Denzel Washington, who would now pursue screen roles. His powerful presence and acting versatility made it easy for Denzel to work in many TV productions.
Some of the television shows and movies he featured in include:
- Carbon Copy
- St. Elsewhere: This was a hit NBC medical series premiering in 1982. Washington landed the role of DR. Philip Chandler.
- The Pelican Brief
- Out of Time
- Man on Fire
- 2 Guns
- The Equalizer
Mind you, these are just a few of the many films that Washington has starred in.
In addition, he has produced some of his films, such as Safe House and The Book of Eli. Moreover, Denzel has directed Antwone Fisher, The Great Debaters, and Fences in 2002, 2007, and 2016, respectively.
Denzel Washington has always defined his onscreen persona as a no-nonsense and tough guy, especially in his films of the 2000s. This has led to his nomination in several awards, including the Oscar Nominations for Best Actor in The Hurricane and Malcolm X. In 2002, he won this statuette for his lead role in a 2001 film, Training Day.
In 2012, he was one of the nominees for an Academy Award for Best Actor after starring in Flight. Finally, in 2016, he received the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award during the 73rd Golden Globe Award.
Today, this acting hero lives in Los Angeles, California, with his wife and kids. Indeed, Denzel Washington left a mark in the film and TV world as one of the best African-American male actors.
Forest Whitaker was born in Longview, Texas, on July 15, 1961.
He won his first award (Academy Award) for his role in the film The Last King of Scotland in 2006, where he acted as Ugandan Dictator Idi Amin. In fact, he followed in the footsteps of Jamie Foxx, Denzel Washington, and Sidney Poitier and became the 4th African American male to win an Academy Award for Best Actor.
In addition, Whitaker has won a BAFTA and Golden Globe.
Let’s take a look at Whitaker’s acting history. He made his debut in 1982 at 21 in the film Fast Times at Ridgemont High, a raucous comedy where he acted as a footballer. In his second film, Vision Quest, he played the role of a wrestler. Afterward, Whitaker acted in various TV shows, such as Cagney& Lacey and Diff’rent Strokes.
Whitaker came to the limelight in 1986 after featuring in the movie The Color of Money. In fact, this is what earned him more visible acting roles in films such as Stakeout and Platoon (undoubtedly “A” class films).
He has also played the roles of director and producer since the early 1990s. His directorial debut was with Waiting to Exhale while he produced the first film, A Rage in Harlem, in 1991. He’s the executive producer of First Daughter.
If you’re a fan of the film, The Last King of Scotland, which premiered in 2006, you can agree with us that this was Whitaker’s greatest success to date. His role in the film earned him several awards, including the prestigious Academy Award for Best Actor, the Golden Globe Award, BAFTA Award, the Screen Actors Guild Award, and numerous critical accolades.
Of course, Whitaker has received many more honors throughout his acting career.
Forest Whitaker often plays political, military, or law enforcement roles with characters often inspired by historical figures. Another of his trademarks is his left eye which doesn’t open fully due to ptosis. He is a black male actor whose performances are always transformative.
Jamie Foxx is not only an actor but a comedian and singer. The biographical film Ray (2004) led to him winning an Academy Award for Best Actor. He also won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical and a BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role.
Jamie was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in Collateral once again.
Foxx was born in Terrell, Texas. According to him, the rigid upbringing he received placed him in the church choir and Boy Scouts. He studied music in college and made his first music album in 1994 called Peep This.
Everything changed for him in 1989, and he started his acting career. His girlfriend is the one who challenged him to do so. Later he was cast in In Living Color and Roc.
From 1996 to 2001, Foxx had a WB television show, The Jamie Foxx Show. In this show of his own, he played Jamie King Jr. He has starred in other films, including Quentin Tarantino and White House Down (as president James Sawyer).
Jamie Foxx is among the only four Black Americans who have won an Academy Award for Best Actor. Undoubtedly, Foxx is one of the greatest black male actors to grace the film and TV screen.
Every movie lover is familiar with Michael Ealy, known for his deep personality and charming looks. He was born in Silver Spring, Maryland, on August 3, 1973.
This black male actor appeared on the movie screen for the first time in 2002 with a role in Barbershop. Before then, he performed in stage productions.
Michael Ealy has featured on NBC’s Law & Order, ABC sitcom Madigan Men, and Showtime’s Soul Food. After kick-starting his acting career with a lead role in Barbershop, Ealy has appeared in:
- Kissing Jessica Stein
- Bad Company by Jerry Bruckheimer
- Baseball Wives
Michael Ealy, the natural blue-eyed black actor, is loved by many for his personality. Indeed, he’s one of the best black male actors.
Michael B. Jordan
Michael B. Jordan is one of the most popular black male actors. He was born in Santa Ana, California, but raised in New Jersey.
The 37-year-old African-American actor has starred in three television dramas. In fact, these are among the top-most critically acclaimed drama series of the last decade.
The first dramatic hit series that Jordan featured in was The Wire (2002). In this HBQ film, he played the softhearted but hard-shelled Wallace. Later in 2006, he starred on NBC’s Friday Night Lights playing as a quarterback Vince Howard. This was in 2006, before assuming the role of a recovering alcoholic on Parenthood.
Jordan’s first-ever major leading film role was in Fruitvale Station in 2013. He was playing Oscar Grant and acted alongside Melonie Diaz and Octavia Spencer. This film went ahead to receive the Grand Jury Prize. It also received the Audience Award for U.S. Dramatic Film, among many other awards.
Other films that Jordan has appeared in include:
- Fantastic Tour
- All My Children
- Creed, starring alongside Tessa Thompson and Sylvester Stallone.
- Black Panther
- Friday Night Lights
- Fahrenheit 451
Most of the time, Michael B. Jordan works with Ryan Coogler.
Away from acting, he’s a great supporter of the charity Lupus LA. He resides in the same place (Los Angeles).
Fans of Insecure know Jay Ellis pretty well. Apart from being a film and television actor, Jay Ellis is an entrepreneur and a philanthropist. He was born in Sumter, South Carolina, on December 27, 1981. He comes from a military family. Thus, most of his childhood involved traveling.
His first acting role came after moving to Los Angeles in 2013 with the sole purpose of pursuing the same dream (of acting). He appeared on the BET series The Game. The series ran for 147 episodes. Before then, Jay was an active player in short films.
Jay Ellis’ filmography includes NCIS, Grace and Frankie, How I Met Your Mother, Masters of Sex, and Grey’s Anatomy. More notably, he appeared in The Game, and recently you can see him as Lawrence Walker in the HBO series, Insecure.
Jay Ellis is a father of one daughter. Of course, this black male actor has a bright acting future ahead due to his brilliant acting skills.
Kelvin Harrison Jr.
Kelvin Harrison Jr. was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on July 23, 1994. This young African-American actor is well known for his role in Lucie, a 2019 film. Besides, he has featured in other films, including It Comes at Night (2017) and Monsters and Men (2018).
Before Harrison Jr began his career as an actor and director, he was a musician, with his favorite instruments being the trumpet and piano. His first role was in the film 12 Years a Slave. Kelvin Harrison Jr. has also featured in the film Waves, Mudbound, among many more.
Harrison Jr.’s role in the psychological horror movie It Comes at Night got him a lot of praise. His performance got him nominated for Breakthrough Actor at the Gotham Awards in 2017. He maintains that this role motivated him to continue his career as an actor.
Being only 27, the talented actor has his whole life before him–he still has a long way to go as a movie actor.
Tyler Perry was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on September 14, 1969. This is also where he grew up with his carpenter father and church-loving mother. However, his relationship with Emmitt Perry, his father, was not the best. In fact, he even suffered depression in his teenage years.
However, this didn’t stop him from becoming a great actor, writer, producer, and director. Often, Tyler Perry plays multiple characters on stage, in drag, and in his films. Most of his TV series and films feature African-American themes.
This Successful filmmaker started writing while 18 years old. He is ranked position seven by EW, on their list of 50 smartest people in Hollywood. Tyler Perry’s filmography includes:
- Diary of a Mad Black Woman.
- Alex Cross
- Madea Goes to Jail
- If Loving You Is Wrong
- Man of Many Faces
- The Oval
Without a doubt, Tyler Perry is one of the most successful African-American actors, producers, directors, and, more notably, one of the best film and movie writers.
Trevante Rhodes was born in Ponchatoula, Louisiana, on February 10, 1990. His acting career began in 2012 though it took off well in 2016. Before he ventured into acting, Rhodes was one of the most accomplished tracks and field sprinters.
He has appeared in the popular Birdbox (Netflix original) alongside Sandra Bullock. Trevante Rhodes has also starred in The United States vs. Billie Holiday and The Predator.
He first appeared in several movies before his breakthrough in the industry in 2016, where he played a role in the film Moonlight (The Oscar-winning film).
Top Black Male Characters in TV & Film, Final Thoughts
Without a doubt, these gentlemen have established themselves as the best in Hollywood. And as much as most of these American actors have achieved success, it wasn’t short of challenges. Still, they got the range to tackle whichever role they were required to play in TV and films.
What’s to note and appreciate is that some have gone ahead and achieved several accolades and awards. Whether actively playing roles or retired, we’re excited to see them conquer.