Media Watch: Black Actress Update – Has Hollywood Been Good to Them Lately?

Last post of the year. So, Happy New Year. Have a prosperous 2013, and many more.

Let’s get down to business. I’ve compiled all the shows that I noticed have black women (two black parents or not) as main characters or otherwise.

Always feel free to add shows / movies I may have missed … I’ll update this post over time.

Kerry Washington
Kerry Washington – image from celebritynetworth.com

Scandal – Kerry Washington, Columbus Short

Update: The NY Times has discovered the historical nature of this show: “Scandal on ABC – breaking barriers“.

Update: Faith (actsoffaithblog.com) has written a very compelling and incredibly insightful post about the show. This is in regards to Star Jones trying to dictate via twitter to Shonda Rhimes (executive producer / writer / et al)   who she wants Olivia Pope to be partnered with.

Did I happen to mention that the analysis is awesome? Please, check it out:

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Apparently, for the first time in eons a black woman (with two black parents) had a show of her own on network television. I love soaps. I love the drama. The crazier the better. This show moves much faster than I expected. And what beats the most powerful man in the world being “wide open” for a black woman? Very stimulating. 😀

I was initially worried that Shonda Rhimes was going to bury her main character, Olivia Pope, behind all those “special” white women on the show. She did not, and does not, do that. What I love most about this character is that she is: petite, elegant, beautiful, smart and vulnerable. Yeah, she’s not superwoman. She cries, but when she’s ready – her mind gets to work and she runs a superb game. I love any show that brings on a woman as a “fixer”, but not someone physically pushing her weight around, cursing and screaming at anyone, or doing anything stereotypical. Not an eye roll, neck twist, lip smack, or hand-on-the-hip in sight.

It’s a fine line, presenting a black woman with this amount of complexity, but this show rides it nicely. And I like that with this character, there’s much more to learn about her. Every couple of episodes peels back another layer to that mysterious onion. Wonderful.

So, I want to thank you, Shonda Rhimes for making this show, and letting the world revolve around Ms Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington).

I like Columbus Short‘s character, Harrison Wright, as well. I’ve seen him in a few movies. I like the way he speaks, his careful delivery of lines. He really looks like one of the few actors who enjoys himself and gets immersed in his role. I think what I’m trying to say is, I can’t recall if he’s ever played a thug. He seems able to avoid falling into stereotypical “black guy” roles most other black actors get by default.

Maybe, unlike the others, he’s found a way to move beyond those roles….

Aunjanue Ellis - image from blackfilm.com/read/2012/09/aunjanue-ellis-tapped-to-co-lead-new-amc-legal-drama-series/
Aunjanue Ellis – image from blackfilm.com

NCIS: Los Angeles – Aunjanue Ellis, LL Cool J

Low and behold on NCIS: Los Angeles they found out that LL Cool J‘s character Sam Hanna is married and a father! Not only that! She’s a real two black parent black woman! I am shocked. Shocked! I tell you. Usually, when a brown skinned actor like LL is cast with a woman, she’s skim milk black with a teaspoon of chocolate.

She’s darker than him!!! Sorry, but the credo with color casting in the media is always a black guy who’s charcoal and a woman who looks half white. It’s racism against dark-skinned black women and lighter complexioned black men. So, it was nice to see something different for a change.

And the plot of the show? I don’t know. I had stopped watching NCIS: Los Angeles, because I was getting tired of all the other characters having a life whilst LL Cool J did not. I will have to catch up to the season. All I know is that Sam Hanna’s wife, played by Aunjanue Ellis,  is an undercover agent going by the name of Quinn. From what I see, I like how she rolls.

Part of me is afraid to see the next episode, because of what Hollywood usually does with black families….

Overall, I really like the NCIS shows. My longtime favorite is the original. Mark Harmon has aged well. Still a handsome man. The formulas for these programs work.

Update: Almost forgot there was an NCIS episode (Season 10, Episodes 10) that featured Rose Rollins as a Navy Lt Commander married to a former military officer who happened to be white.

Danai Gurira - Photo by Michael Kovac/WireImage
Danai Gurira – Photo by Michael Kovac/WireImage

The Walking Dead – Danai Gurira

As I said to my girlfriend, “They killed off Shane (Jon Bernthal), why I need to watch it now?” The show follows the novel / comic book sorta closely. I heard they deviated from killing Shane off earlier, because he had a fan base. Why not keep him around indefinitely? Oh, well.

Apparently, a show with so many characters needed to make room for one of its centerpieces: Michonne (Danai Gurira). She’s a samurai-sword wielding warrior kind of woman. Keeping everybody safe from zombies. All right now!

I’m all into zombie, science fiction, action and mystery stories / movies, so I’m thrilled about this.

And I saw that trailer for World War Z with Brad Pitt. I cannot wait!!!

Salli Richardson-Whitfield
Salli Richardson-Whitfield

Eureka – Salli Richardson-Whitfield and Tembi Locke

This was the last season for the show. I love how it ended. I never saw the first episode, but it gives it a nice loop, which make the show self-containing. If that makes any sense.

I usually dislike (hate, hate, hate!!!!) it when the main characters of a show are required to fall in love. I know that’s what the fans usually demand. And 9 times out of 10, that will kill off a good show. It’s like, once the writers throw them into bed, they’re depleted of new material, and go, “Now what?”

I have to say that the chemistry between Salli Richardson-Whitfield (Allison) and Colin Ferguson (Jack) worked. It felt genuine. I wanted them to be together. And when they did, it didn’t get lame like we see with most other TV show couples. They seemed like a perfect fit. I think because they were really really good friends that respected and loved one another. Being “in love” was another aspect to their relationship. And goodness, I wanted to be in a couple like theirs!

Even though their erotic tension was muted, it wasn’t primary, like we see with most other shows, where everything goes flat the minute they get together. The failure with other couples (Moonlighting) was because the sincerity wasn’t there from the beginning. Other couples worked (Cheers?), because the tension never goes away, sometimes it intensifies.

And breakups are fine even after they get together, that shows the writers know how to work their material.

Tembi Locke
Tembi Locke

Update: Crazy of me to forget Tembi Locke. She played Grace Monroe, the wife of Joe Morton‘s character Henry Deacon in the alternate universe. She was a major character on the show as well.

Person of Interest – Taraji P. Henson

This is the first program I can recall where a black woman had the top billing on a network program, I mean as a major character, not just part of an interchangeable ensemble. And this show preceded Scandal – timewise – by a country mile. I enjoyed POI immensely. I love shows with intricate plots. But I lost track when CBS pulled the online plug. So I have to wait for it via DVD or some other method to catch up with it.

I liked the chemistry between Taraji P. Henson and Jim Caviezel. I don’t need for them to get romantically involved or hot and heavy (hmmm, maybe though). I liked their dialogue. When I started watching, the show gave me the feeling of a modern day revamping of Batman as a former special forces soldier (Jim Caviezel) with Catwoman (Taraji P. Henson) as a cop. Don’t know if anyone else feels that way, but that’s just my take.

Meagan Good
Meagan Good

Deception – Meagan Good

Brand new show. And if I’m not mistaken, will be the second major network show with a black woman as a lead character. Wow. If it’s fun like Revenge with the quality of Scandal, it should last. Haven’t seen it yet, so I cannot judge.

What’s also interesting is how Hollywood can now locate beautiful two black parent black women to star in TV shows. Were they hiding somewhere before?

Anyway, hope the show does well. I’ll try to catch up and see it.

Warehouse 13 – CCH Pounder as Mrs Irene Frederic, Genelle Williams as Leena

The character of Mrs Irene Frederic is still going strong. Although she doesn’t appear in as many episodes. The character Leena, played by Genelle Williams, “died” in episode 10, Season 4. Not sure what happens after that. I heard a new character – a black woman – will be joining the show. We’ll see.

Suits – Gina Torres as Jessica Pearson 

I love this show. The dialogue is witty and silly. It doesn’t lean too heavy on the lawyerly (is that a word) stuff, but deals more with problem solving before they reach the courtroom. The show manages to make chasing clients down and dealing with sheets of paper for court filing seem exciting. That takes talent.

And I don’t care how bad a show is, if Gina Torres is on it I’m watching. Yeah, I’m a fan. Did you know she’s Laurence Fishburne‘s wife? I had no idea. I only ask that she cut back on cooking for him: he’s gonna explode any day now.

Franklin and Bash – Dana Davis as Carmen Phillips, Garcelle Beauvais as Hanna Linden 

Yes, Mark-Paul Gosselaar (Mr. Saved By The Bell) has a show with two – count ’em, two – beautiful black women (with two black parents). And the show is already into it’s third season.

I think that’s a TV network record.

Parenthood – Joy Bryant

I’ve never watched the show. Unfortunately, I never had the time, and I didn’t realize it was still on and running. Maybe I’ll catch it one of these days. I don’t think I ever saw an ad for the show. Interesting.

It’s been on for a good number of seasons. Good for them.

Parks and Recreation – Retta

Community – Yvette Nicole Brown

I get these two shows – P&R and Community – mixed up. Although I shouldn’t. I honestly thought they were the same program. And like Parenthood, I haven’t seen any advertising for P&R.

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Last, Last, Last! Update:

Grey’s AnatomyChandra Wilson

After Isaiah Washington left, tried to hang in there. Couldn’t. But glad to know Ms Thing is handling her business on the show. I read somewhere that they found her character a man. Hmmm.

GleeAmber Riley

Years ago, I watched the first episode. Never went back. Although, good for her that she’s still there. She can sing. I don’t know about the others.

Penny Johnson
Penny Johnson
Grabbed from superiorpics.com
© Retna

CastleTamala Jones and Penny Johnson

Any major network show that can have two beautiful black women as major characters gets props from me. It’s been a while since I’ve watched. Gotta get back on track.

Justified – Erica Tazel

They took this show off online, and I cannot find it anywhere else! Not even on Amazon (instant video). I don’t know if I can bother with Netflix or iTunes.

I just need my fix of watching Timothy Olyphant swagger once in a while. Guess I’ll have to hunt down the DVDs.

Why do these entertainment companies do this? Don’t they want viewers? Not everybody has cable TV.

White Collar – Diana Barrigan and Diahann Carroll

Ms Carroll is not a main character, but I get very happy whenever I see her. I want to look as elegant, and be on point, when I grow up.

Cast Members Dominic West and Sonja Sohn  of HBO's"The Wire" Celebrate Season Finale at TAO Nightclub in Las Vegas, Nevada on March 8, 2008
Sonja Sohn
Grabbed from superiorpics.com © Retna

Burn Notice – Sonja Sohn

Sonja Sohn is in the following six episodes: Over the Line, Down & Out, Best Laid Plans, Odd Man Out, You Can Run and Game Change. Really enjoyed her performance. She needs her own show. Having her as a one-of-a-kind black woman Federal Marshal or Military Official hunting down someone would be FANTASTIC.

Like I wrote before (re: Scandal), love to see it when they have a woman doing this kind of thing. As long as it has tension and good drama, it will work.

Although I see Burn Notice as having run it’s course 2-3 seasons ago, I still check it out. Don’t know how they do it, but every episode gives me anxiety attacks. They just know how to rack up the insanity.

Love Sci-Fi / Fantasy / Cop Drama Genres

But the following three shows have gone beyond jumping the shark:

  • Vampire Diaries – Kat Graham
  • Fringe – Jasika Nicole
  • Bones – Tamara Taylor

True Blood – Rutina Wesley

Been trying to get started. One day I’ll grab the DVD collection and see what’s up.

Aja Naomi King
Aja Naomi King

Emily Owens MD – Aja Naomi King

Smart, as well as beautiful; apparently, a Yale graduate too. Haven’t watched the show. I guess it’s a funny Grey’s Anatomy?

Revenge – Ashley Madekwe

I had no idea she was there from the beginning, but yeah, episode 1, she’s there when it all begins. I like her character. Although my true favorite is Nolan Ross played by Gabriel Mann. He’s the guy with the best lines.

Nice campy drama. Doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Carrie Diaries – Freema Agyeman

She’s from Dr Who.

Touch – Gugu Mbatha-Raw

I wanted to watch this show, but I think the Fox network has been moving it around. I hope it stays around so I can check it out. GMR is from a short-lived black (married!) spy couple show on NBC a few years back.

The Neighbors – Toks Olagundoye

Spartacus: Vengeance – Cynthia Addai-Robinson

And thanks to all of you who reminded me to add these shows in the comments section. I appreciate it very much! 😀

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Mr. Easy-on-the-Eyes
Jay Ryan a.k.a. Mr. Easy-on-the-Eyes

Special Mentions: No Black Women Starring, But Enough “Color” to Be Interesting

The CW TV Network – Kristin Kreuk and Nina Lisandrello

I’ll give the CW props and much credit for having shows with black women. I watch the new Beauty and the Beast, and although the two mentioned above are not black women – I like Kristin Kreuk, and Jay Ryan is extremely easy on the eyes – it may be the first show I’ve seen with two minority women as cops in the lead.

Interesting show. And fun to watch.

The CW TV Network – Nikita – Maggie Q

I watched this show when it first came on. I have to give them credit, there was a black girl (Tiffany Hines) in the first season and partially in the second. There were a few more on the program, but since I lost track of it around season three, I couldn’t tell you who is in the current lineup.

As Faith says in the comments, this is the first time an Asian (or half-Asian) woman had her own show on a network. Not bad.

Elementary – Lucy Lui

I love this show. I also like the growing relationship between Jonny Lee Miller (as Sherlock Holmes) and Lui (as Watson). I’m a fan of Lucy Lui. I’ve always liked her “coolness” in the roles she plays. The show doesn’t rush the plot(s), although some episodes are a bit predictable, but I like that they refrain from constantly chasing after and shooting at people. I find that to be a waste-of-time filler on a number of cop dramas.

I mentioned in the comments, that by episode 5 – called Lesser Evils, Anika Noni Rose plays Lui’s best friend. I very much liked that, because I cannot recall the last time I ever saw a black and Asian woman portray friends, of any sort, on a major network TV show. Usually that role is filled by a bubbly blond with big teeth, head and a perfect disposition.

It was really nice to see a difference for a change. Sometimes I get the impression from TV programs that black and Asian women can only have white women as best friends. And that’s not a normal or healthy reality for the media to promote. As far as I’m concerned, anyone and everyone can play someone’s best friend.

MOVIES

Here’s the top 20 grosses of 2012 (grabbed from boxofficemojo.com):

  1. Marvel’s The Avengers
  2. The Dark Knight Rises
  3. The Hunger Games
  4. Skyfall 
  5. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2
  6. The Amazing Spider-Man
  7. Brave
  8. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
  9. Ted
  10. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted
  11. Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax
  12. MIB 3
  13. Wreck-It Ralph
  14. Ice Age: Continental Drift
  15. Snow White and the Huntsman
  16. Hotel Transylvania
  17. Taken 2
  18. 21 Jump Street
  19. Lincoln
  20. Prometheus

And special mention to the following:

  • Battleship (2012) – Rihanna as Petty Officer Cora ‘Weps’ Raikes
  • Immortals (2011) – Ayisha Issa as High Priestess #4
  • Joyful Noise (2012) – Queen Latifah.  I wrote a post about this film.

Yeah, there are the Madea / Tyler Perry and other type of flicks that came out, but I have no intention of listing them.

Skyfall – Naomie Harris – Eve

Based on box office projections, this may be the most successful James Bond flick so far. Interesting.

And yes, it’s awesome to see another black woman in a big box office hit. See Hollywood? Including black women doesn’t hurt your bottom line at all. So, stop lying about how our lovely, dark-skinned faces cost you people money with the overseas market (and even domestic). I mean, if I can even see black women in Korean dramas speak a few lines, what’s the excuse for Hollywood besides racist sexism?

I confess that I haven’t seen Skyfall, yet. I will when it hits Amazon, Netflix or on a DVD at some point. I’ve cut back on going to the theaters.

You know the main reason I don’t see movies? Unless it’s an action film where I don’t care for the dialogue, I find that 90% of the time, I have no idea what characters are saying. When I watch something via Amazon or on DVD, I put the close caption on. And it turns out people are saying things completely different from what I expected.

I think that’s why I prefer classic old films, I understood what everyone said. Today, most of what comes out of an actor’s mouth is unintelligible. Not paying $10 plus to hear somebody mumble.

The Hunger Games – Amandla Stenberg as Rue

I don’t have much to say about this film. I didn’t see it. I have no plans to see it. I think there was an online ruckus, because white liberals admitted that they are indifferent towards the death of “innocent” black girls, don’t believe they exist or something to that affect. Please DO NOT explain the deal to me in the comments: I don’t care. I guess people were surprised by the blatant racist sexism hatred or something.

Hey, I grew up in NYC, capital of white liberals. Folks finding out that they don’t regard black girls and women as human beings is no shocker to me…. But, oh well … gotta find out the truth at some point, I guess.

21 Jump Street – Holly Robinson Peete as Officer Judy Hoffs

I had loved this show. This is where I became an early fan of Johnny Depp. I always hoped there would be something to that something between his character and Holly’s.

Didn’t see the movie, so I don’t know how much screen time she got. But it’s nice to know they remembered she was on the show. It was rare to see a black woman in a role like this one.

I’d give you more, but I’m exhausted. I’m happy there was a lot to include.

And if people remember other programs I may have missed, please list them, minus the Tyler Perry stuff.

So, Was Hollywood Good to Black Actresses in 2012?

I’ll give them a B. Was I too generous? Well, I’ve definitely seen an uptick in two black parent black women, even in commercials, so I’ll give them credit for remembering we exist. There are some movies or TV shows I wont watch if it seems like a waste of time, whether it has a black actress or not.

I always want to support the good, quality works that have black women in it. Like it or not, the media is an incredibly powerful image tool. If we look good / great, people do treat us accordingly, it’s conscious and subconscious.

So, I don’t mind if we’re invisible sometimes, I’m not looking for blind inclusion each and every time. It’s when we are included and look a hot dysfunctional mess that gets me upset.

Happy New Year. Let’s see what 2013 brings.

Prayers go out to all those who have lost loved ones. May we all find more love, forgiveness and peace in the coming year.

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Black Actress Update: Props to Queen Latifah For Making ‘Joyful Noise’

About Us For Us

I saw the movie Joyful Noise over the weekend. I had no idea what it was about. I saw it with a girlfriend (who’s Asian), she was the one who recommended it. I think most of the reviews have been half and half regarding this film. It’s a musical, a comedy with small bits of drama.

The storyline is rather old fashioned, family friendly, and when I watched it, I felt it would be a perfect musical for the stage (Off or On-Broadway). I liked the music so much, I’m buying the soundtrack. By the way, I’m also a Dolly Parton fan. It was nice to see her in this film. Kirk Franklin shows up to do a song.

The Film’s Focus

One thing about Queen Latifah, when she makes a film with a black woman / women in it – she doesn’t take the spotlight off of them to share it with others. That will be part and parcel of why this film wont get high grades: there’s no storyline about any white girl(s) in this. It’s about black women: their friends, frenemies, families and men (black, white and Asian).

Yup, all the interracial couples in this movie involve black women. 🙂

Think about that when others try to persuade you to see films where we are invisible, don’t exist, or only make up part of the background scenery.

The Audience

From my quick visual survey at the time, the demographics looked rather good: a mixed crowd of people over 25, although mostly white couples or white women with their kids.

That tells me that a variety of folks will come out to see a film with black women in the lead.

Praise

So, I stand up and applaud Queen Latifah for quietly putting out a movie, TV program, or whatever, year after year that focus on us. Somehow, she’s figured out how navigate the treacherous waters of Hollywood as an Executive Producer to get stuff done.

I hope more black women can do the same.

The Red Tails Discussion

Also, I wanted to point everyone to the awesome discussion over on What About Our Daughters regarding the lack of black women in the film Red Tails by George Lucas.

Ladies, at the end of the day, it’s your wallet, do as you please. 😀

 

Update: My bad … I should have mentioned Keke Palmer. Her singing is amazing. I say if they ever wanted to make a new and improved, yet younger version of, The Bodyguard, they’ve got their girl.

 

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