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They’re all icons in their own right and certainly have plenty left in the tank. But like with any stars in culture, there’s always the “next” one. And to anyone wondering if there will be another generation of black superstar leads in Hollywood, fear not. There are quite a few.
Here is a look at a few (because there are a lot) of my personal favorite actors in Hollywood who I believe will be seen in a similar light as the aforementioned stars were viewed back in their younger days.
Young Black Actors That Are Basically There: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan
These two stars aren’t new and have pretty much hit that star level and it’s only a matter of time before they are viewed as the absolute best around. Chadwick Boseman may be 42 years old, but he looks younger than that, in part, because he really rose to prominence during his 30s (Sam Jackson wasn’t a success until he was 43!). His performances in 42, Get on Up, Marshall, Black Panther, and very recently, Da 5 Bloods were as fine as anyone working today. Boseman has a knack for bringing strength and gravitas to his roles which likely helped him win parts in those movies.
His talent won him one of sports greatest athletes, a legendary Motown singer, a beloved Supreme Court Justice, and one of Marvel’s greatest comic-book characters. There’s a reason he gets such icons. Not many can say they’ve played one. He’s got four already under his belt. His role in Da 5 Bloods will be underrated I feel, even in the recent reviews. But it was necessary. He shined as a tougher and rebel-like character that was different from his other straight hero-type roles. And yet there was still a charismatic strength to him in that film.
Michael B. Jordan is a fantastic actor and cemented his acting chops through Creed, Black Panther, and Just Mercy. He’s an A-lister and is known just as much for his good looks which adds to his superstar title. Due to their similar timing and rises to stardom and roles opposite each other in Black Panther, I can see Boseman and Jordan being linked together for years to come, becoming the one-two punch that I think of with Denzel and Morgan.
(Like the Boseman and Jordan, Washington and Freeman both became household names in their lone film together: Glory.)
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Young Black Actors That Are One Blockbuster and/or Award Nom Away: John David Washington, Daniel Kaluuya, Zendaya, Laura Harrier
John David Washington will likely be up with Jordan and Boseman sooner than the rest of these names if Tenet is as awesome as it looks. BlacKkKlansman was more than enough to bring Denzel’s son into the ranks of young stars working today. (It never hurts to have an icon as a father either.) But a supporting role in The Old Man & the Gun as well as another starring role in the upcoming thriller film, Born to Be Murdered, Washington won’t just be Denzel’s son. He’ll be one of the best in the business.
Daniel Kaluuya broke out thanks to Get Out and proved he wasn’t a one-hit-wonder with roles in Black Panther and Queen & Slim. He’s got class, he’s likable, and like everyone else on this list, acts the hell out of everything he does.
Zendaya is a young star who holds two skillsets: acting and singing. Despite her age, Zendaya has already proven her versatility in the Spider-Man films, The Greatest Showman, a role in the highly-anticipated Dune, and her best role as Rue Bennet inEuphoria in which she delivers a performance of strength and vulnerability as a teen dealing with the ups and downs that is life. So more than a teen star, Zendaya is a force to be reckoned with.
Laura Harrier is possibly the most unknown on this list. The general public likely recognizes her from Homecoming but has no idea she is so much more than that. I knew she was something special in Homecoming, but I knew she’d need to max out her potential. She’s begun to do that with roles in BlacKkKlansman and Hollywood. Though not a perfect show, Hollywood is a fun look at the “what-ifs” of the Golden-Age of film. In a packed cast, I was impressed with how quickly she set herself apart from the crowd. I expect lots more from Harrier and everyone else should keep an eye on the actress.
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Young Black Actors That Are Consistent and Loved: Tessa Thompson, Letitia Wright, Lakeith Stanfield
Tessa Thompson is a tough woman who embodies that trait through action films. She is an action star who has sass and doesn’t need anyone to help her get things done. She’s inspired may audiences to a point where she won the crown of Asgard as the feisty Valkyrie. That’s impressive work right there. Though she does dramatic work, her action roles are what she excels at. I expect her role in Marvel to grow exponentially.
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Letitia Wright has acted as an inspiration for many on and off-screen. She’s caring and loved by so many all over. Her Emmy nomination for Black Mirror was well deserved and she’s at home in the Marvel films as well for her role as Shuri, the coolest princess since Leia in the Star Wars Saga. Like Thompson, she hasn’t done too much but has quickly become a household name and will get much more work. Her persona as a humble celebrity allows her to connect with viewers in a unique way. She allows a sense of openness and vulnerability that makes me excited for what she’ll accomplish in every facet of life.
I knew Lakieth Stanfield had a future after Get Out. Sure he had what, two real scenes in that? He was that memorable. But that role led to the leading character in Sorry to Bother You, great supporting gigs in Knives Out and Uncut Gems (my favorite work of his so far), and a starring role on the show Atlanta. Like Wright, he has a likable persona with skills to transform into any role he’s given, making him a hot commodity for film studios everywhere.
While there are so many more, these stars are rising and will continue to do so, leading the next generation of talent for decades to come.
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