Cast This: Bonnie And Clyde-Style Crime Drama With 20-Something Year Old Black Leads

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by Tambay A. Obenson
November 22, 2011 5:17 PM
32 Comments
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While posting the new poster for Matthew Cherry's feature debut, The Last Fall, I thought about its 2 young stars, Lance Gross and Nicole Beharie; and that led to thoughts on up-and-coming young black actors and actresses who'll eventually replace *our* current seasoned veterans.

It's something that we've touched on previously on S&A, and something that just keeps coming up, as if, in discussing it, a change in course will somehow be forced... maybe... maybe not.

But, as I type this, I'm having a really difficult time coming up with names of young black actors and actresses we'll likely be exalting in future years, as the older generation of thespians become less *desirable;* specifically, I'm thinking of black actors/actresses in their 20s, whom we can consider leading man/woman (or potential leading man/woman) material.

Who are they?

We can certainly name countless Caucasian up-and-comers in their 20s (some of them are already major stars in their own right); but just try doing the same for black 20-something up-starts.

So, I'm wondering... here's the challenge folks... if you were a studio head with the power to greenlight a moderately-budgeted movie with two 20-something black leads - one male, one female - who would be the 2 actors at the top of your short list? The movie can be a romantic comedy like all the others, or an action comedy like Mr And Mrs Smith, or even a crime drama like Bonnie And Clyde; give me your top choices for leads - who you think could put butts in seats AND also be lauded for their performances. Or, essentially, they have the potential to be box office draws, and are also good actors.

Also, give your reasons for picking them.

"Potential" is the key word. I realize that there really aren't many who fulfill both suggested criteria; so, another way to look at it is to think of those you believe have the potential to fit both criteria, if only they were given the kind of push that's necessary for studio dealmakers to take notice of them.

But give it your best shot, and your reasons.

Again, only those in their 20s - so from 20 to 29 years old. In the case of The Last Fall, Lance Gross wouldn't count because he's actually 30; BUT Nicole Beharie would because she's 26 or so.

Go!

By the way, the above photo was created by publicist Arian Simone in response to Vanity Fair’s Hollywood Issue, which, as you probably recall, was heavily criticized for the lack of diversity evident in its cover photo. So here's another pair of questions... how many of the young ladies in that photo can you actually name; and secondly, how many would fall into either (or both) criteria, with respect to the main question of this post?

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32 Comments

  • candice frederick | December 3, 2011 5:54 PMReply

    nicole beharie, amandla stenberg

  • misha | November 25, 2011 6:02 PMReply

    Male:
    Michael B. Jordan
    Tristan Wilds

    Female:
    Naturi Naughton
    Nicole Beharie
    Jurnee Smollett

  • Pamela | November 24, 2011 5:18 PMReply

    I must confess, I know no one in the photo. Sad.

  • ForeignBlackChick | November 24, 2011 7:57 AMReply

    Where is Derek Luke nowadays? He is the most emotive actor black or white, that I've seen in the past few years. But I guess he's now too old for this list. There are many young black men who I've seen act well, in the token parts they're permitted.

    As for the actresses... I agree with those saying Yaya Dacosta. Looks like she chooses the unconventional movies, or they choose her. Either way, she seems exciting enough.
    I like Keke Palmer as well.

  • Kia | November 23, 2011 1:55 PMReply

    Okay... besides Nicole Beharie, I'd cast Yaya Dacosta: she already has a following for ANTM, was part of the cast of an oscar nominated and critically successful film: The Kids are All Right and showed acting chops in The Messenger and Racing for Time. She'll next be seen in Andrew Dosunmu's sophomore feature Ma George as the lead.

    For the male lead, I'd cast Malcolm Goodwin: he is part of the hot new show "Breakout Kings" and has been featured in over 12 films, including American Gangsta, Leather Heads, Long Shots and Mississippi Damned. The man has some serious talented and one of those underrated actors. He just needs a lead role to tip the bucket.

  • Micah | November 23, 2011 1:27 AMReply

    Does anyone think Keke Palmer will make the cut in a couple of years? She is legal now, cute, somewhat recognizable to the youth market and received accolades for her work.

  • bicoastal | November 23, 2011 9:06 PM

    @K: She did star in her won film; Akeelah & the Bee. @Micah: Will Keke make the cut in a couple years? Definitely. This girl is in 5 studio films coming out in 2012, so it's safe to say a studio exec has given her a picture deal. 2 of them are sequels that are well liked (Halloween & Ice Age), so she's going to be a contender for leading lady status in a few years. Nicole Beharie?? Hell no. What was I on? I guess if you come in here sniffing the S & A fumes long enough, you get a contact high.

  • K | November 23, 2011 3:50 PM

    I think she will be a star if there comes a day when black actors are recognized and reach the level of young white up and comers. And she has a new film with Abigail Breslin coming up. Perhaps one day she'll star in her own film.

  • Ash | November 22, 2011 10:17 PMReply

    Sorry, I know this isn't exactly on topic, but was anyone else drawn to all these women are wearing elaborate weaves? Little hair diversity would be nice.

  • AccidentalVisitor | November 22, 2011 11:55 PM

    I get your point, Ash, but unfortunately that ship has sailed.

    Actually I was drawn to the picture of the women because it excluded the male equation of Tambay's question. But I suppose people don't take photos of young black actors and actresses in the same shot.

    That being said I think there are more choices to select from in regards to black actresses of that age range than there are in regards to black actors. I've held that opinion for the last few years.

  • BiCoastal | November 22, 2011 7:07 PMReply

    How could I forget the men?? Jason Howson of upcoming Wuthering Heights fame gets the first audition. Anyone Andrea Arnold casts, I trust. Columbus Short, because he will get attention after Scandal airs; Damon Wayans Jr, because he's a legacy Hollywood kid and hypothetically I probably have already contracted one of his uncles/father (typical studio-exec shit), and Mechad Brooks, because he will bring women to the film. Honorable mentions: Rob Brown (if you can hold your own across Sean Connelly, you get my vote), Michael B. Jordan

  • BiCoastal | November 22, 2011 6:48 PMReply

    Yaya DaCosta would be my first choice. She is completely natural in front of the camera, not self-aware, and I like her look. She is highly intelligent in interviews, speaks fluent Portugese (allowing her to woo the South American market) , and has that flawless dancer's body!

    Nicole Beharie would at least get a screen test. She has strong technical acting skills. If Beharie was chosen, the proviso would be that Ivana Chubbuck or Neal Lerner MUST be her on-set coach. No exceptions. Chubbuck trains movie stars, not film-to-tv-back to film stars.

    Honorable mentions: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Adepero Oduye, Keke Palmer, Katerina Graham, Tessa Thompson, Rose Rollins

  • ghana | November 22, 2011 6:46 PMReply

    Tiffany Hines, Jennifer Freeman, Kyla Pratt, Naturi Naughton, Tia Mowry-Hardrict, Chyna Lane, Lauren London, Monique Coleman

  • Brandy | November 22, 2011 6:39 PMReply

    Okay so far you serve a good point, it is extremely hard to think of Black Actors/Actresses in their 20s which sucks but I'll give it a go, the first person that came to mind was Derek Luke who I feel is underrated, raw, authentic and displays great emotion on screen but hey then again he is well out of his 20s *scratching him off this list. Moving along to actresses I'll go with Tika Sumpter she is just beginning to get her feet wet in the acting world and I would love to see what she brings to the table-she definitely has this innocence about her. Tristan Wilds or Collins Pennie-not sure if I have valid reasons for picking these two gentlemen because they are still green to the big screen but I would definitely place Tristan in a romantic comedy because of his school boy looks and charming demeanor as for Collins he would be the drama guy because he has an edge with a range of motion as far as the movies I've seen him in.

  • K | November 22, 2011 6:39 PMReply

    Tyler James Williams will be 20 next year. I think he's great and I'd like to see more of him. And yes where is Shareeka Epps.

  • MacUffin | November 22, 2011 10:01 PM

    Look for Tyler James Williams as they lead in the Disney Channel musical remake of Cyrano De Bergerac called 'Let It Shine' next summer. He's totally going to blow up off of it, along with Trevor Jackson and Coco Jones.

  • K | November 22, 2011 6:37 PMReply

    I've been thinking about this forever. How I'm so incapable of naming young black actors yet I can name up and coming white actors left and right. Women leads: Tessa Thompson. I watched her web series Blue Belle and she was on Veronica Mars and I'd say she needs to be working more. One of the more talented actresses out there. I'd like to see her in something that shows her talents. Zoe Kravitz. I mean she hasn't made much of an impression in her films but she's not bland like Emma Roberts. I feel like she can be dangerous another poster said. I see the potential of crazy, dark, disturbing roles. Hope Olaide Wilson. I thought she was fascinating in I Can Do Bad All By Myself. I think she's capable of great things. I think Nicole Beharie is gonna be big. I wanna see her continuously get work. I can't think of any young 20 something men. I see potential in Brandon T Jackson. In Lottery Ticket, anyone can hate, but I felt like he was bursting with potential. Michael B Jordan from FNL and Parenthood. I liked him on FNL. I think he could be used more.

  • Tori | November 22, 2011 6:25 PMReply

    I need to see Tessa Thompson in more things. She's just awesome. As for the guy...how about Michael B Jordan?

  • TJ | November 22, 2011 6:21 PMReply

    Evan Ross & Naturi Naughton

    even though Naughton hasn't really blown me away just yet, I see so much potential. As for Ross, he can do no wrong in my eyes. No matter how crappy the movie is overall, he never fails to give a memorable performance.

  • Vanessa | November 22, 2011 6:01 PMReply

    I've been thinking about this for a while. But the actor is 32! The male actor age cutoff in this game should be like 34. Just sayin' :) Men take longer to mature anyways.
    My top choices are....
    Anthony Mackie and Nicole Beharie! or Chiwetel Ejiofor and Beharie :)
    Surpriiise!!? No?.. Oh well. I'm quite predictable at this point.
    That would be it for me. They are both thespians, young, beautiful, not overexposed by the mainstream, but big enough to both lead a film with a healthy budget, a good one at that. Especially after this year. :)

  • Jug | November 22, 2011 7:59 PM

    Vanessa, it's why I didn't even try. Somethings just make you upset. "Painted into a corner" anyone?

  • Vanessa | November 22, 2011 7:43 PM

    Oh BTW Mackie is 32 and Ejiofor is 34. If I can't do those guys then I'm going to have a hard time casting Beharie because I feel like she needs a more mature actor to play opposite. Well damn, even David Oyelowo is 34. Omari Hardwick is 37! *sigh* I can't play this game. :)

  • Vanessa | November 22, 2011 6:52 PM

    I know that Tambay. I did say, "The male actor age cutoff in this game should be like 34. Just sayin' Men take longer to mature anyways."
    I know I don't make the rules, but...I'm sorry I'ma need a more mature actor here. :)
    whaa? I'm disqualified?? Oh OK. :-/

  • Tambay | November 22, 2011 6:43 PM

    The only problem here is that Mackie and Ejiofor are both in their mid-30s, so don't fit the criteria. Try again :)

  • blaqbird | November 22, 2011 5:43 PMReply

    Okay so I'm looking at 2 of the girls and can't for the life of me remember their names but here you go from l to r:

    Tiffany Hines, unknown, Kayla Pratt, Naturi Naughton, Tia Mowry-Hardrict, unknown, Lauren London, and Monique Coleman.

    It's interesting that most of the high school musical cast has gone on to do larger projects, but Monique hasn't been really seen since her stint on Dancing With the Stars.

    Anyways I'm not sure who I would cast. Jurnee Smollett and Anthony Mackie seem to be the more well-known black actors for this next generation, though Mackie is not in his 20s anymore. Adepero Oduye seems to be getting lots of recognition, including the Hollywood Reporter, so I would put her on the list. And whatever happened to Shareeka Epps (from Half Nelson)?

  • ... | November 22, 2011 5:41 PMReply

    i wrote all of the following, and then realized....dam, none of them are in their twenties....this is harder than i thought. and a dam shame..... we need black hollywood...in response to hollywood's bullshit. it's getting worse by the year y'all

    sidenote- is that kyla pratt!! loved one on one *memories*
    ===========

    i think omari hardwick has leading male potential, esp in the future. have only seen him in some parts of dark blue and i will follow, and already very impressed. definitely one to look out for.
    as for female, i think kerry washington for sure, although i'm dissapointed in a most recent role choice *ahem*
    zoe saldana for female also, she is already kicking major ass and memorable even she's not leading, so yes, she is definitely on her way up there
    i think they all do if given the right roles.

  • blaqbird | November 22, 2011 5:49 PM

    Lol! Didn't recognize my space breaks either!

    And it was difficult trying to come up with folks! Hopefully I'll be on that list in the coming years!

  • ... | November 22, 2011 5:44 PM

    i didn't write this comment all jumbled. promise. apparently didn't wanna recognize my skipped lines lol

  • Tamara | November 22, 2011 5:38 PMReply

    Mehcad Brooks or John Boyega - both handsome gents who could play cold-heartedd, ruthless, methodical, anarchistic(a word)? Ccharacters. At least in my mind.

    Zoe Kravitz - pretty, unseeming, but intense. She reaks of seething disdain and maniacal lunacy; like she wouldn't care about shooting up a bank full of innocent people.

    I can name about 4/5 of those women.

  • Tamara | November 22, 2011 8:17 PM

    I both over and undershot with my male lead. Lol. Well, hmm. I stand by Zoe as "Bonnie".

  • Tambay | November 22, 2011 5:52 PM

    One problem though... Mehcad is in his 30s, and John Boyega is in his teens :)

  • guyver | November 22, 2011 5:34 PMReply

    If I am going off of sheer talent and acting prowess... I would say hands down, actor "Shaun Mixon" and actress "Monyque Thompson Scott." I Honestly don't know too many 20 somethings today with the level of acting chops, or who have had the chance to prove it.

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