Throughout history, the vampire myth has fascinated people. We’ve evolved and played with the rules as time moves on, and one of the ways media made that shift was through casting a diverse range of actors.
Consequently, black vampires of both genders have gained increased visibility and popularity since the first vampire hit the screen. Here are some of the most popular.
Perhaps because of Dracula, our primary association with vampires of any gender is of the pale, shadowy figure that lurks in the dark. But, there have been as many permutations of the vampire myth as there are writers, resulting in many black vampires that get overlooked in the vampire discussion.
Here are some of the most recognizable black male vampires.
Actor K. Todd Freeman plays the delightfully, inventively evil Trick on Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
The fast-talking, charismatic black male vampire Mr. Trick first appears in season three, episode three, Faith, Hope and Trick, a title as irreverent as the vampire and that plays with I Corinthians 13:13. Here Trick takes the place of love or charity, and when we meet this black male vampire, he’s working for the older, cloven-hooved Kakistos.
But Trick is nothing if not self-made, and there is no honor among the undead. When the tables turn, Trick isn’t above scarpering, and the audience is delighted. He reappears in episode five, Homecoming, where he puts his considerable personality on show hosting Slayerfest 98.
Here, Trick hopes to persuade other vampires into a light spot of vampire slayer killing. The competition goes amok. This time not even Trick’s smart suits save him, and the police take him away. But not for questioning. The villainous long-lived mayor needs a lieutenant, and he wants it to be Trick.
Ever resourceful, Trick engineers one scheme after another for the mayor. They seldom come off, but not for want of creativity on Trick’s part. And because Trick is the brains behind these operations and never the one to carry them out, he’s always got someone else to blame.
But his ambition gets the better of him in Consequences, and it proves to be Trick’s last appearance. A moment of gloating spells his demise. As he crows over, wounding one slayer, another stabs him from behind. To add insult to injury, she strong-arms the mayor into giving her Trick’s old job.
And while vampires might prove evasive in mirrors, the Sunnydale vampires do show up on video. Here’s Freeman’s Trick in a scene that charmed audiences everywhere immediately.
While Twilight author Stephanie Meyer might not have set out to write Laurent as a black male vampire, that’s how the character came to the screen. Portrayed by Edi Gathegi, Laurent shares his nomadic existence with Trick and other literary vampires before him.
Born in the 1700s, a mysterious Russian ambassador turns him into a vampire sometime in the 1740s. They make an effective vampire duo, but Laurent is always chasing after the most powerful person in the room, and eternity with cheerful Boris starts to feel like a long time.
For the better part of history, Laurent shifts allegiances as his whimsy takes him. That habit of following gut instinct serves him well when he realizes that his then-coven’s plot to kill Bella Swan would be far from his cleverest idea.
Laurent warns Bella and the Cullens about his own coven’s intentions to hunt the young woman. In return, he’s absorbed into this found family of vegetarian vampires. Their peaceable existence and the quiet authority of their leader baffles Laurent, not least because he never develops a taste for animal blood.
By his own admission, Laurent cheats the taboo on human blood often. Eventually, he leaves the Cullens for a different vampire coven. There, he meets mate Irina but continues perplexed by their less authoritarian lifestyle.
In the end, the lure of old-world authority overcomes him, and he agrees to spy for the vampires he betrayed back in Twilight.
In addition to power, Laurent loves nothing so much as opportunity. Here he is on video, trying to make the most of one.
Marvel seems to have a finger in every pie these days, including popular black male vampire Blade. His pregnant mother becomes a vampire while still pregnant with Blade. This turns Blade, still in utero, into a vampire, but it also gives him a cause to fight for, and Blade dedicates his life to killing other vampires.
There have been several permutations of black male vampire Blade in media. Westley Snipes played the vampire in a 1998 movie, and later, Kirk Jones brought the character to the small screen.
Blade is unique among TV vampires in that he is both human and vampire. As he describes it, he has all a vampire’s strengths but none of their weakness to things like:
- Holy water
But, like any other vampire, Blade craves human blood. That changes when mentor figure Whistler appears on the scene. He gives Blade the tools he needs to fight vampires and ways to control his bloodlust using a specially-curated serum.
Because Blade can withstand sunlight, his fellow vampires rename him Daywalker. But neither of these is Blade’s name. He was born Eric Brooks, and after the death of his mother, his human father tried to keep him alive on butcher’s blood and hospital blood.
When it didn’t work, Whistler entered a young Blade’s life for the first time. Horrified at the revelation of what he was Blade bolted, and changed his name.
Over the years, Blade has had several nemeses, including:
- Deacon Frost
- Night Stalkers
Blade has been a perennial favorite since his inception by Marvel in the 1970s. This video should demonstrate why.
Perhaps one of the best-known black male vampires, Blacula, is introduced to the audience first as Mamuwalde, a prince trying to save his country. To do that, he petitions Dracula for help. But Dracula’s idea of help isn’t anyone else’s, and he turns Mamuwalde into a vampire, locks him in a coffin, and leaves his wife Luva to starve.
In a different film, the story would stop here. Instead, we follow Mamuwalde, now Blacula, as a pair of hapless decorators purchase his coffin for their new home. This goes as well as you’d expect for the decorators.
And Blacula might become another unremarkable horror movie, except that at the funeral home, a lurking Blacula spots a woman who looks like his wife. He proceeds to cut a bloody swathe across Los Angeles, but not out of vengeance. He is desperate to reconnect with the woman he loved and lost hundreds of years ago.
When Blacula does find Luva, now Tina, they face a police confrontation. Blacula turns Tina into a vampire, but the police mortally wound her. Unprepared to lose her twice, the vampire walks voluntarily into the sunlight, ending the carnage.
It’s an unexpectedly exciting and thoughtful exploration of the male vampire, and while the film is sometimes classified as blaxploitation, it also features a powerful, capable black protagonist.
This video gives you a taste of how the story starts.
But while men might predominate in vampire fiction, they haven’t got the market cornered on it, either. One of the earliest narrativizations of the vampire story centers on a young woman named Carmilla. Written and published in 1871, Carmilla predates Dracula by roughly 20 years. It’s also a favorite text when discussing early portrayals of queer or LGBTQ+ relationships.
Since the 1870s, women in vampire fiction have evolved, and these days they do more than act as thinly-veiled same-sex allegories.
Here are some black female vampires portrayed in media.
Based on a novel by Anne Rice, Aaliyah plays the former monarch turned vampire rockstar Queen Akasha in the 2002 movie Queen of the Damned.
The movie loosely interprets Rice’s text, and for many, charismatic, black female vampire is the most memorable part of the film. Aaliyah’s voice is atypically ADR-ed to deepen the star’s voice and give it the gravelly cadence particular to the undead.
It’s an odd film. Rice’s famous vampire Lestat reinvents himself as a rock god, and his music summons Akasha, the eponymous Queen of the Damned. She sets out to find the man who woke her, determined to make him her king.
There are shades of the Orpheus myth at play here if Orpheus was a rock star and Eurydice unwittingly pulled out of the underworld.
What’s interesting about it is that Akasha is so unremittingly evil that only by joining forces do other vampires have a hope of stopping her. The movie aired in 2002, in a time and space when women protagonists weren’t supposed to be unrelentingly evil. And while it’s not the most complex or nuanced treatment of this type of protagonist, it’s a memorable one.
Don’t believe us? Here’s a video demonstrating Akasha is a woman that knows how to make an entrance.
Played by Marlene Clarke, Ganja Meda is a black female vampire who not only agrees to marry a vampire but also to become one. She succumbs to the promise of eternal life but soon realizes to her horror that she has chosen a life of murder and damnation.
Betrayed, this black female vampire sets out to seek redemption. It’s a fascinating idea, particularly because vampire lore borrows heavily from Christian communion imagery.
This video juxtaposes Ganja’s overt civility with the readiness with which she embraces murder and darkness.
Rutina Wesley played human-turned-vampire Tara Thornton on True Blood for six of the show’s seven seasons.
Tara began as a human and childhood friend of Sookie Stackhouse. We meet her for the first time in the episode Strange Love. In season five, she became a vampire after Sookie and friends persuaded vampiric Pam to save her with a vampire bite.
Although Tara died at the start of season seven, Wesley continues her portrayal. Tara regularly appears to her mother, a medium, in visions from beyond the grave.
This video showcases some of Wesley’s most memorable moments for the character.
The American fascination with the undead doesn’t look to be abating soon, either, so chances are there will be more black vampires, male and female, on the horizon in due season. Here’s hoping they’re all as charismatic and engaging as their predecessors.