Here's a topic always worth discussing. Actresses of Color who deserve better careers. I made a top ten on this topic many moons ago -- 2007 to be exact over at the old blog which went like so: Anika Noni Rose, Regina King, Naomie Harris, Hazelle Goodman, April Grace, Tonya Pinkins, Audra McDonald, Gabrielle Union, and the list was topped by Viola Davis and Kerry Washington. The past eight years were very very kind to about three of them -- this was before Viola's Oscar nominations and before Scandal for Kerry and before Audra's record breaking 5th and 6th Tony Awards), but others were ignored or their careers stayed roughly the same. Do people even know who Hazelle Goodman is anymore? It will always mystify that April Grace proved she could hold her own, charisma wise, with Tom F'ing Cruise at his most intense in a stand-off in Magnolia and not come out of it with a giant career. Hollyweird.
But the subject is always worth revisiting since Hollywood changes slowly. And, to be honest, it's even a topic that applies to white and blond actresses because Hollywood is not exactly a meritocracy. Make the wrong move here, miss an opportunity there, or don't have the right agent and all the talent in the world might not make for a big career. But back to the subject of actresses of color. Remember when Lupita was in discussions for Southpaw and eventually moved on (the part went to Naomie Harris)? Having seen the picture I think we can all now agree that there's zero reason on earth, plot-wise / character-wise / talent-wise why the juicier wife part couldn't have gone to Lupita (or Naomie) instead of to Rachel McAdams. Even when Hollywood discovers someone as exciting as Lupita they don't come up with opportunities for them, opportunities that are all around if you think about it; Maybe you've noticed that the industry makes multiple HUNDREDS of movies a year.
The topic is on my mind again because Dell on Movies made a list and A Fistful of Films countered with another. Naturally, I don't agree on all of the choices. I think Queen Latifah, for example, often phones it in. Maybe subconsciously she knows that her substantial charisma will smooth over the blank spaces? But there are some obvious YES situations here too: Q'orianka Kilcher (The New World), Adepero Oduye (Pariah), and Emayatzy Corinealdi (Middle of Nowhere). I actually wonder if their names aren't part of the problem. Hear me out: I don't mean this in a "too ethnic!" racist kind of way. I've noticed it a lot with white actors, too - especially with stage performers oddly enough. Names are getting SO long and complicated. It seems that "stage names" are a thing of the past but there's something to be said for refashioning your given name towards something that's catchy and easy for the public to remember / obsess over. If it's already catchy like "Lupita Nyong'o" just keep it but if it's hard to remember and difficult to spell why not make it easier for potential fans? Just ask Frances Gumm (who became Judy Garland), Archibald Leach (who became Cary Grant) or Natalie Zacharenko (who became Natalie Wood) and so on. Every once in a while someone new changes their name to something catchier -- did you know that Brie Larson is actually Brianne Sidonie Desaulniers? -- but mostly today's actors are keeping their original names.
For what it's worth Emayatzy has a series regular role in Amazon's Hand of God starring Ron Perlman (as a businessman who starts speaking in tongues and seeing visions) and Dana Delany as his sharp wife that drops all of its first season episodes in early September. Emayatzy plays Perlman's mistress/prostitute. Pilot reviewed here.
I'm not in the headspace today for a full top ten on this topic but I know it would include Melonie Diaz (such a welcome presence - she always pops), Carmen Ejogo (so gorgeous and talented), Kimberly Elise (just brilliant and so infrequently works in movies), Danielle Brooks (so dependably engaging on Orange is the New Black and I want to see what else she can do), Adriane Lenox (who originated Viola's role on stage in Doubt to a Tony Award), Clauda Kim (Age of Ultron / Marco Polo)... maybe you can help out in the comments with your own?