The Darker the Berry: Our list of talented BLACK Actors

Photo from video still Ncuti Gatwa and Russell T. Davies speak about Doctor Who casting on the red carpet for the TV Baftas (C) The Sun Showbiz , Actor Profiles from Wikipedia

With the announcement that Scottish-Rwandan actor Ncuti Gatwa as the 14th time-traveling Doctor Who, I thought, hurrah, another dark-skinned actor, has been cast in a leading role. I am not color struck. I’ll give kudos to any actor for a job well done where applicable. I’m certain Michael Ely, Koris Kodjoe and Terrance Howard will sleep just fine at night. Check out the list of my favorite dark-skinned actors. I intentionally excluded popular actors Denzel Washington, Idris Alba, Delroy Lindo, Terry Chestnut, Don Cheadle, Taye Diggs, Anthony Mackie and Blair Underwood.

Ncuti Gatwa

Mizero Ncuti Gatwa is a Rwandan-Scottish actor. He rose to prominence as Eric Effiong on the Netflix comedy-drama series Sex Education (2019–present), which earned him a BAFTA Scotland Award for Best Actor in Television and three BAFTA Television Award nominations for Best Male Comedy Performance. In 2022, Gatwa was announced as the fourteenth incarnation of the Doctor on the BBC series Doctor Who, making him the first black actor to lead the series.

Video Still Omar Sy as Lupin (c) Netflix

Omar Sy

Omar Sy is a French-Senegalese actor, best known in France for his sketches with Fred Testot on the Service après-vente des émissions television show. He gained wider recognition for his role in the 2011 comedy-drama film The Intouchables, which earned him the César Award for Best Actor, making him the first Black recipient. He currently appears in the Netflix-produced series Lupin (2021-present) and The Takedown (2022). 

Video Still Daniel Kaluuya as Fred Hampton Jr. in Judas And The Black Messiah

Daniel Kaluuya 

Daniel Kaluuya is a British actor and writer. Prominent on-screen and British stageplay, he has received numerous accolades, including an Academy Award, two BAFTA Awards, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, a Golden Globe Award, and nominations for a Primetime Emmy Award and a Laurence Olivier Award. In 2021, he was named among the 100 most influential people globally by Time magazine.

In 2017, Kaluuya achieved a career breakthrough after starring in Jordan Peele’s popular horror film Get Out, which garnered him a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor. For his portrayal of Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton in Judas and the Black Messiah (2021), he won the Academy Award, BAFTA Award, Critics’ Choice Award, Golden Globe Award, and Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Supporting Actor. At age 32, Kaluuya became the seventh-youngest winner of the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. He is the first British actor of African heritage to win an Academy Award. 

Eamonn Walker Photo by NBC/Parrish Lewis/NBC – © 2016 NBCUniversal Media, LLC

Eamonn Walker 

Walker was born in west London to a Grenadian father and a Trinidadian mother. His first film role came in 1991, playing Carlton in Young Soul Rebels about the interaction between different youth cultural movements in late 1970s Britain. In 1997 he won the major role of Kareem Saïd on Oz on HBO in the United States. He appeared in the first episode on 12 July 1997, and he continued to play the role until the third episode of the final season in 2003. He won the award for Best Actor in a Dramatic Series in the inaugural CableACE Awards for his performance in the first series of Oz He currently appears on Chicago Med (2017-present) as Chief Wallace Boden. 

John Boyega in Pacific Rising © 2018 – Universal Pictures

John Boyega 

John Adedayo Bamidele Adegboyega, known professionally as John Boyega, is a British actor and producer. He first rose to prominence in his native Britain for his role as Moses in the sci-fi comedy film Attack the Block (2011), and his international breakthrough came with his role as Finn in the Star Wars sequel trilogy films The Force Awakens (2015), The Last Jedi (2017), and The Rise of Skywalker (2019).

His other credits include the drama film Imperial Dreams (2014), the historical drama film Detroit (2017), the science fiction film Pacific Rim: Uprising (2018), and four episodes of the television event 24: Live Another Day. He received the BAFTA Rising Star Award in 2016, and the Trophée Chopard at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. He was cited as one of the Top 100 most influential Africans by New African magazine in 2020.

Video Still actor Derek Luke with Erika Alexander in horror film American Refugee on EPIX (2022)

Derek Luke 

Derek Nathanial Luke won the Independent Spirit Award for his big-screen debut performance in the 2002 film Antwone Fisher, directed and produced by Denzel Washington. Luke played Gabe Jones in Captain America: The First Avenger. He is also known for his role as Kevin Porter on the Netflix original series 13 Reasons Why.

From February to April 2013, Luke played the character of “Gregory” in the FX series The Americans. In 2015, he played Malcolm Devoe, head of security for Empire Entertainment on the TV series Empire and Cookie’s secret love interest. In March, 2018, he was cast in the lead role of the NBC pilot “Suspicion.”

Video Still Ashton Sanders in Moonlight (2016)

Ashton Sanders 

Ashton Durrand Sanders is best known for his portrayal of teenage Chiron in the Academy Award-winning film Moonlight (2016).

Sanders made his film debut in The Retrieval, directed by Chris Eska. The film had its world premiere at South by Southwest on March 11, 2013. It was released in a limited release on April 2, 2014 by Variance Films.

In 2015, Sanders had a small role in Straight Outta Compton. In 2016, he appeared in an episode of Refinery29’s web series The Skinny. 

Sanders co-starred in The Equalizer 2, a sequel to the hit action film The Equalizer, opposite Denzel Washington. In 2019, Sanders starred in Rupert Wyatt’s science fiction thriller film Captive State, opposite John Goodman and Vera Farmiga. He also played the lead in HBO’s adaptation of the novel Native Son. In November 2020, he was set to star in The Things They Carried, a Vietnam war movie featuring an ensemble cast. 

Lance Reddick in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum Photo by Niko Tavernise – © Netflix

Lance Reddick 

Lance Reddick is best known for playing Cedric Daniels in The Wire and Phillip Broyles in Fringe. He is also known for portraying Detective Johnny Basil on Oz, Matthew Abaddon in Lost, Charon in the John Wick franchise and Guillermin in Godzilla vs. Kong. He has provided the voice and likeness for video game characters Martin Hatch in Quantum Break, Sylens in Horizon Zero Dawn and Horizon Forbidden West, and Commander Zavala in the Destiny franchise. He plays Chief Irvin Irving on Amazon Prime’s Bosch.

Reddick appeared in the 2013 thriller White House Down. In 2014, Reddick appeared as Charon in the action-thriller film John Wick, a role he has reprised in its two sequels In July 2021, it was confirmed that Reddick will reprise his role in John Wick: Chapter 4. He voiced the character Commander Zavala in the 2014 and 2017 video games Destiny and Destiny 2, respectively.

Aldis Hodge in Brian Banks Photo by Katherine Bomboy – © Bleecker Street

Aldis Hodge 

Aldis Alexander Basil Hodge played Alec Hardison in the TNT series Leverage, MC Ren in the 2015 biopic Straight Outta Compton, Levi Jackson in the 2016 film Hidden Figures, Noah in the WGN America series Underground, Matthew in Girlfriends and Jim Brown in the 2020 film One Night in Miami… He will play Carter Hall/Hawkman in the upcoming DC Extended Universe film Black Adam. 

Video Still Kofi Sirboe as Ralph Angel in Queen Sugar (c) Oprah Winfrey Network

Kofi Sirboe 

Nana-Kofi Siriboe is best known for his role as Ralph Angel Bordelon on the television series Queen Sugar (2016–present). He has also appeared in films such as The Longshots (2008) and Girls Trip (2017).

As a model, Siriboe signed with Wilhelmina Models and Vision Los Angeles. He made his professional acting debut in the film The Longshots (2008). He later appeared in the films Prom (2011), Whiplash (2014) and Straight Outta Compton (2015). On television, he had a recurring role on the comedy-drama series Awkward from 2014 to 2015.

Photo by Henny Garfunkel

Mahershala Ali

Mahershala Ali is an African-American actor and rapper. In a career spanning two decades, he has received multiple accolades, including two Academy Awards, three Screen Actors Guild Awards, a BAFTA Award, a Golden Globe Award and a Primetime Emmy Award. Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2019. In 2020, The New York Times ranked him 23rd in its list of the 25 Greatest Actors of the 21st Century.

Ali won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performances as Juan in the drama film Moonlight (2016), and for his portrayal of Dr. Don Shirley in the comedy-drama film Green Book (2018). He is the first Muslim actor to win an Oscar, the first Black actor to win two Academy Awards in the same category, and the second Black actor to win multiple acting Oscars.

Ali portrayed crime boss Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes in the Netflix series Luke Cage (2016–2018), and voiced vampire hunter Blade in the feature film Eternals (2021), ahead of his own standalone film.

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Kit Harington, and Emmanuel Kabongo in Pompeii (2014) Photo by Caitlin Cronenberg – © 2014 Constantin Film International GmbH and Impact Pictures (Pompeii) Inc

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbage

Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s modelling career led him to Hollywood, where he began his acting career with a 1995 role in Congo.

His best-known acting role was as the imposing convict Simon Adebisi in the 1990s HBO prison series Oz. Film roles include The Bourne Identity, in which he played a deposed African dictator, Hitu the police officer in Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, Lock-Nah in The Mummy Returns, and Heavy Duty in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. 

He portrayed Kurse in the Marvel Studios film Thor: The Dark World. He portrayed the character Malko in the fifth season of Game of Thrones. In 2016, he co-starred in the DC Comics film Suicide Squad, as the Batman villain Killer Croc. 

Photo by Nathan Johnson

Sterling K. Brown

Sterling Kelby Brown stars as Randall Pearson in the NBC drama series This Is Us (from 2016–present). Both roles have earned him Primetime Emmy Awards and the latter also won him a Golden Globe Award. He has also had supporting roles in the films Black Panther (2018) and Waves (2019), and recently appeared on the Amazon Prime original series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

He was included in Time magazine’s list of 100 Most Influential People of 2018. 

Photo by Luke Fontana

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II portrayed David Kane, the Black Manta in the DC Extended Universe Aquaman films and Bobby Seale in the Netflix historical legal drama The Trial of the Chicago 7. For his portrayal of Cal Abar in the HBO limited series Watchmen, he won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie. He also starred in an episode of The Handmaid’s Tale and Black Mirror.

Abdul-Mateen portrayed incarnations of Morpheus and Agent Smith in The Matrix Resurrections.

David Harewood in Homeland (2011)
David Harewood in Homeland, The Smile Photo by Kent Smith – © Copyright: Showtime 2012

David Harewood 

David Harewood is a British actor and presenter. He is best known for his roles as CIA Counterterrorism Director David Estes in Homeland (2011–2012), and as J’onn J’onzz / Martian Manhunter and Hank Henshaw / Cyborg Superman in Supergirl (2015–2021).

Harewood began acting in 1990 and has appeared in The Hawk, Great Moments in Aviation, Harnessing Peacocks, Mad Dogs and Englishmen, Blood Diamond, The Merchant of Venice and Strings. He is known for his television appearances on Ballykissangel, The Vice and Fat Friends. He played Don Coleman in Hustle (Series 7 The Fall of Railton FC (2011)). In 1997, he was the first black actor to play Othello at the National Theatre in London.

In October 2021, it was revealed that Harewood will make his feature directorial debut with For Whom The Bell Tolls, a boxing film about the rivalry between Chris Eubank and Nigel Benn.

Djimon Hounsou in Constantine Photo by David James – © 2005 Warner Brothers.

Djimon Hounsou 

Djimon Gaston Hounsou is a Beninese-American actor and model. He began his career appearing in music videos. He made his film debut in Without You I’m Nothing (1990) and earned widespread recognition for his role as Cinqué in the Steven Spielberg film Amistad (1997). He gained further recognition for his roles in Gladiator (2000), In America (2003), and Blood Diamond (2006), receiving Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor nominations for both the latter films. He also played an antagonist in Furious 7 (2015). He has been nominated for a Golden Globe Award and three Screen Actors Guild Awards. He plays an important role as well in the French film Forces spéciales (2011).

In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, he portrays Korath the Pursuer in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Captain Marvel (2019) and the second episode of What If…? (2021). In the DC Extended Universe, he appears as the Fisherman King in Aquaman (2018), and as the wizard Shazam in Shazam! (2019) and the upcoming Shazam! Fury of the Gods (2023). 

Honorable mentions: Lance Gross, Jimmy Jean-Louis, Jimmy Akingbola, Adrian Holmes, and Clé Bennett.