I am often inspired by black actors in creating characters for my books or screenplays. These are some folks who have caught my eye.
Danai Gurira, actress & playwright. She is best known for her role as Michonne on AMC's The Walking Dead. She won Obie & Outer Critics Circle Awards for writing, and a Helen Hayes Award for the off-Broadway play In the Continuum. She also starred in The Visitor, for which she won Method Fest Film Festival for Best Supporting Actress. She has appeared in Ghost Town, My Soul to Take & Law & Order. She currently appears in People magazine’s World’s Most Beautiful issue. She has an MFA from NYU.
Anne-Marie Johnson, actress and impressionist. She is best known for her roles as Althea Tibbs on the TV drama In the Heat of the Night and as Nadine Hudson Thomas on the sitcom What's Happening Now!! She joined In Living Color in its last season and Melrose Place for 1 season. She has appeared on Diff'rent Strokes, Hill Street Blues, Babylon 5, Living Single, That's So Raven, Girlfriends, & The Parkers. A graduate of UCLA, she also served as First Vice-President of the Screen Actor's Guild.
Holly Robinson Peete, actress & singer. She is known for her roles as Judy Hoffs on the TV drama 21 Jump Street, Vanessa Russell on the sitcom Hangin' with Mr. Cooper, & Dr. Malena Ellis on the sitcom For Your Love. She also served as an original co-hosts of the The Talk and appears on the webseries drama Blue. Her children's book, My Brother Charlie, won her an NAACP Image Award, and she & her husband co-founded the HollyRod Foundation to help those with Parkinson's. She speaks 4 languages.
Sanaa Lathan, actress and voice actress. She has starred in TV shows and many films, including the box-office hits Love & Basketball, Alien vs. Predator, Something New, The Cleveland Show (voice of Donna Tubbs), and The Family That Preys. Lathan was nominated for a Tony Award for her performance on Broadway in A Raisin in the Sun. In 2010 she starred in the all-black performance of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at the Novello Theatre in London.
Eriq La Salle, actor, director, writer & producer. He is best known for his roles as Darryl Jenks (Soul Glow!) in the comedy Coming to America (my FAVORITE movie of all time) and as Dr. Peter Benton on the NBC drama series ER. He also starred in Drop Squad, Relative Stranger, & Johnny Was, and directed the HBO movie Rebound: The Legend of Earl "The Goat" Manigault, and multiple episodes of Law & Order: SVU, CSI: NY, Ringer & A Gifted Man. He is a graduate of NYU's Tisch School of the Arts.
Obba Babatundé, singer, dancer, and actor. He is known for his Emmy-nominated performance in Miss Evers' Boys, a NAACP Image Award-nominated performance in Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, a Tony Award-nominated role for his performance in the 1981 Broadway musical Dreamgirls, & as the father on the TV show Half & Half. He also starrred in The Temptations, John Q, & Life. He was a protégé of Sammy Davis, Jr., who said, "This is the only cat who can do everything [sing, dance, etc.] I can do."
Gina Ravera, actress and classically trained dancer. She is best known for the role of Irene Daniels on the Emmy Award winning TNT crime drama The Closer. She also starred as Faith, the husband-stealing cousin in the film Soul Food, as Ruth Tolson in The Great Debaters, and as Molly Abrams, the best friend & seamstress/costume designer in Showgirls, opposite Elizabeth Berkley. She also appeared in The Temptations, Get on the Bus, Kiss the Girls, Time of Your Life, ER, Boston Legal, and Bones.
Anthony Anderson, actor, comedian, and writer. He has starred in his own sitcom, All About the Andersons, as well as the drama series K-Ville. He is also known for his leading roles in Law & Order, The Shield, and The Bernie Mac Show. He also starred in Hustle & Flow, Life, Transformers, The Departed, My Baby's Daddy, Agent Cody Banks 2, Malibu's Most Wanted, Barbershop, Big Mommas House, Me, Myself & Irene, Scream 4, and Kangaroo Jack. He has diabetes, and has been active in diabetes awareness.
Regina Hall, film and television actress. She is known for her lead role of Brenda Meeks in the Scary Movie films. She also starred as Corretta Lipp in the FOX comedy-drama Ally McBeal. She also appeared in Best Man (as Candy, the stripper with heart & brains), Love & Basketball, Disappearing Acts, Law Abiding Citizen, Loving, Think Like a Man, Law & Order: LA, Malibu's Most Wanted, King's Ransom and The Honeymooners. With a Masters in Journalism from NYU, she also writes for ABILITY magazine.
Tyrese (born Tyrese Gibson), Grammy nominated R+B singer-songwriter, rapper, actor, author, television producer, former fashion model, and MTV VJ. After being discovered on a bus, he appeared in a Coca-Cola ad, singing "Always Coca-Cola", later releasing several albums, then transitioning into film. He has had lead roles in several major Hollywood releases, including Transformer film series, Baby Boy, Four Brothers, Annapolis, Death Race, Fast & Furious series, Flight of the Phoenix, & Legion.
Valarie Pettiford, stage & TV actress, dancer, & jazz singer. She began her career as a dancer & choreographer in Bob Fosse productions on Broadway. Her roles included Ladies & Gentlemen, Jerome Kern!, West Side Story, Showboat, & The Wild Party. She received a Tony nod for her role in the Broadway musical Fosse. She is known for her role as "Big Dee Dee" Thorne, the mother of Essence Atkins' character, on the sitcom Half & Half. She also appeared in Jumping the Broom, Stomp the Yard, & The Wiz.
Wendell Pierce. actor. He is best known for his work in HBO dramas, including his roles as Detective Bunk Moreland in The Wire and trombonist Antoine Batiste in Treme. He also appeared in Third Watch, A Rage In Harlem, The Fighting Temptations, Malcolm X, Get on the Bus, & Waiting to Exhale. Because of a lack of access to quality fresh food in New Orleans' poorer neighborhoods, he & 2 partners opened a chain of grocery stores called Sterling Farms. He is a graduate of the Juilliard School.
Salli Richardson-Whitfield, TV and film actress. She is best known for her roles in A Low Down Dirty Shame, Posse, Antwone Fisher, and Family Law. She also stars as Dr. Allison Blake on the sci-fi TV series Eureka and provided the voice for NYPD detective Elisa Maza on the Disney animated series Gargoyles. She also appeared in Biker Boyz, Anaconda 2, I Am Legend, The Great White Hype, & Soul of the Game.
Tempestt Bledsoe, actress. She is best known for her childhood role as Vanessa Huxtable on The Cosby Show. She is the new host of Clean House on the Style Network, replacing long-time host Niecy Nash. She is also one of the stars of the new NBC TV sitcom Guys with Kids, opposite Anthony Anderson. She has been in a long-term relationship for 16 years with actor Darryl M. Bell ("Ron" of A Different World). She is a graduate of NYU.