All month we’ve looked back at the African-American actors, directors, and films that graced cinema screens throughout history. We’ve celebrated the likes of Sidney Poitier, Denzel Washington, Spike Lee, and Voila Davis. The legacy of African-Americans on film is a long and brilliant one. In our last installment for Black History Month, Monkeys Fighting Robots looks to the present at creative talents who are making fantastic entertainment today. The future of African-Americans on film looks bright, and we can’t wait to see what comes next!
Comedian, musician, actor, writer, and all-around unstoppable force of entertainment. Glover co-starred on the cult hit TV comedy Community, a hit comedy special, has a rap album, stars in a comedy where plays a rapper. In 2018, Glover will play Lando Calrissian, the smooth-talking friend of Han Solo in the next installment of Star Wars. As if Star Wars stardom weren’t enough, Glover will also appear in Spiderman: Homecoming in 2017 and will voice Simba in the remake of The Lion King. Glover’s making the future of black history better with every role.
Only 23 years old, Keke Palmer is already a film and TV veteran with roles dating back to 2004 when she was ten years old. Palmer currently stars as Zayday Williams, the whip-smart final girl (?) of Fox’s campy horror series Scream Queens. In 2015, Palmer released her first album “So Uncool” under Island Records. The multitalented Palmer might sound familiar to kids or fans of animated movies as the voice of Peaches from two ice age films. The future for Keke is bright with two films coming in 2017 and more music, while Scream Queens lives in limbo.
If you don’t know Mahershala Ali, it’s because he’s that good of an actor. The actor’s nominated for Oscar for his performance in Moonlight and played a role in another Oscar-nominated film, Hidden Figures. Ali is a regular on House of Cards and played Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes in the Netflix/Marvel series Luke Cage. After a year like 2016, Ali co-stars in Roxanne Roxanne slated for release this year. In 2018, Ali plays Vector in the long-delayed Alita: Battle Angel directed by Robert Rodriguez.
It would be a scandal to keep Kerry out of this. See what I did there? Kerry Washington is a treasure in our look at the future of black history. Washington is the multi-award-nominated star of hit series Scandal, now in its sixth season. Washington flexes her acting muscles in several indie films including the powerful Night Catches Us. In 2012, she starred in Tarantino’s Django Unchained. Last year Washington was nominated for her role as Anita Hill in the HBO film Confirmation.
Michael B. Jordan
The star of Creed, the film that reinvigorated the Rocky franchise, Michael B. Jordan’s filmography is quickly filling up with impressive movies. Before Creed, the young actor co-starred in movies such as Red Tails and Chronicle. In 2013, Jordan’s critically acclaimed performance in Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station took him to a new level. Jordan’s unfortunate attempt at playing Johnny Storm in 2015’s Fantastic Four aside, he’ll be playing Killmonger in Marvel’s Black Panther in 2018.
A twenty-year veteran of film and TV, Octavia Spencer made waves in 2011 with her Oscar-winning role in the movie The Help.Two years later she received heaps of praise for playing Wanda Johnson in Ryan Cooler’s Fruitvale Station. For Zootopia fans she’s the worried Mrs. Otterton. Spencer’s role in Hidden Figures received several award nominations, including another Oscar nomination. In 2017, Spencer is slated to host Saturday Night Live and has three films set to release.
Everyone knows him as Falcon, the guy who gets no upgrades from Tony Stark what-so-ever in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But action movie fun aside, Mackie is a phenomenal actor who showed incredible depth and range in the Black Panther inspired film Night Catches Us. Many of Mackie’s performances received recognition, including a Best Supporting nomination at the Spirit Awards for his role in Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker.
Documentary filmmaker Dawn Porter isn’t a household name, but she’s in the news plenty. In 2016, Porter’s latest film Trapped debuted and required law enforcement presence at screenings. Why? Porter’s film is essentially a pro-abortion documentary about the adverse effects of anti-abortion laws. Abortion is a touchy subject for a lot of people. Screenings of Trapped encountered protests or threats of violence. Porter, however, does not shy away from the ugly truths of the world in any of her documentaries. You could say that Dawn Porter is keeping the future of black history very real.
To call young director Ryan Coogler a rising star would be an understatement. His first feature film, Fruitvale Station won the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at Sundance in 2013. Two years later, Coogler took the helm of the sagging Rocky series and made another Oscar-nominated entry by the name of Creed. For the past several months he’s been working on Black Panther for the Disney-Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Happy Black History Month!