Casting call: Black women on the big and the small screen

One of the biggest downsides of living in Asia is the severe lack of Black people of African descent. I'm not saying that living abroad is bad; however, it's easy to get tired of being a foreigner, an outsider even if the society around you is ridiculously polite. In as much as people elsewhere get sick of seeing "whites" all over the television, 99.9999% of the time I only see Japanese, Koreans and a few Chinese on television. Just imagine, there's the whole of South East and West Asia, yet...

This feeling has only increased since my brief trip to Alabama last September. If it hadn't been for IndieWire, especially the Shadow and Act: On Cinema of the African Diaspora blog, I'd be fairly nutty by now. It was the blog that first put me onto Tracie Thoms (see pictured), who is guaranteeing that I'll watch her as Kat Miller on Cold Case, a show I'd previously only watched because of Danny Pino.

Since I go to this blog for the sole purpose of finding out when Black women will appear in movies or television, I thought I'd share some of the upcoming goodies with you. Let's see what our Black sisters are up to while they earn that paper. All credit goes to Shadow and Act.

New casting entries will be listed first. My comments are colored and italicized.

Vivica Fox is slated to co-star in an original romance comedy titled It's Not You, It's Me.

No word on Fox's role but I suspect it's in the "best friend" category.

Yes, of course she is.

Girlfriends' Tracee Ellis Ross is slated to star in the new NBC drama pilot titled Bad Girls, adapted from the UK ITV series by the same name which ran from 1999 until 2006.

Ross will play a powerful business woman, who puts off having children to tend to her career; she is now desperate to get pregnant, but becomes incarcerated for selling dummy mortgages.

This is a white-c0llar crime, isn't it? Is a nicer prison in store? Will she get pregnant by one of the prison guards?

Ross can be seen in the BET comedy series Reed Between the Lines, which she also produced.

Vanessa Williams will co-star in the new supernatural drama pilot for ABC titled 666 Park Avenue, which is based on the Alloy book series by Gabriella Pierce. The project revolves around a "young couple (Rachael Taylor, Dave Annable) who accept an offer to manage one of the most historic apartment buildings in New York City." Hence the title, the tenants in the building begin to experience dangerous and mysteriously supernatural occurrences.

Williams will play the cold and sophisticated wife of the building owner, played by Terry O'Quinn.

Hasn't Vanessa already played THIS role?

Cuba Gooding Jr. will star in the Fox Legal Drama Series Guilty.

In the pilot, written by Greg Belanti and Marc Guggenheim, Gooding Jr. plays William "Billy" Remz, a morally dubious defense attorney who is unjustly convicted of fraud and consequently stripped of his license.

According to Deadline, Sharon Leal is slated to play "Gooding’s savvy and pretty wife who must deal with her husband’s relentless and unending drive."

Savvy and pretty? That's new.

Deadline is reporting that Carmen Ejogo and Rochelle Aytes have been cast in roles for two planned ABC drama series, Zero Hour and Mistresses, respectively.

Zero Hour centers on Hank Foley who, after spending 20 years as the editor of Modern Skeptics magazine, becomes involved in one the most compelling conspiracies in human history when his wife is kidnapped. Ejogo will play the FBI agent investigating the kidnapping who may have her own agenda.

Mistresses, a U.S. version of the popular British format that has been previously seen on BBC America, is described as a provocative thrilling drama that finds four women with scandalous romantic lives, caught in storms of excitement and self-discovery, secrecy and betrayal, and at the mercy of the complex relationships they’ve created. Aytes has been cast as April, a recent widow raising two daughters and running a high-end linen shop on Robertson Boulevard. A 2009 Lifetime Channel pilot based on the same series also featured Aytes in a lead role. Mistresses is looking at a summer 2013 debut.

Oooohhh... so we have a FBI agent with secrets and a widow? I'll try to be optimistic though I'm pretty sure Hollywhite ought to leave the BBC stuff alone.

It's going to be difficult (thankfully) to complain about the lack of diversity on TV this year if a lot of the pilots that have cast black actors in the past few weeks get picked up by the networks. And ABC just made it a little more difficult with the casting of Danielle Nicolet for their pilot, White Van Man.

White Van Man, a comedy based on the UK format of the same name, is about Tony (Kyle Bornheimer), who is forced to put his dreams on hold in order to take over the family handyman business from his father. Deadline is reporting that Nicolet (3rd Rock From The Sun, The Starter Wife) will play the sister of one of Tony’s co-workers.

And seeing how S&A's Courtney told us last month that Edi Gathegi had landed the part of Tony's co-worker, one can easily assume that Nicolet and Gathegi have been cast as siblings.

Oh please, don't let her be someone's side piece.

Zoe Saldana is currently in talks to star with Dark Knight's Christian Bale in the drama Out of the Furnace, written and directed by Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart). Out of the Furnace, a "gritty throwback to 1970s movies" according to Variety, and based on Brad Ingelsby's script The Low Dweller, revolves around an ex-con, played by Bale, who is determined to avenge the death of his younger brother once he's released from prison.

Saldana would play a waitress married to the town's sheriff and Bale's ex-wife. Robert Duvall and Viggo Mortensen are slated to star as Bale's uncle and the film's villain respectively.

Although Relativity Media has not greenlit the project and the actors have yet to be confirmed, the producers are looking to begin filming in late spring. Relativity will be producing with Ridley and Tony Scott's Scott Free and Leonardo DiCaprio's Appian Way and Brooklyn Weaver of Energy Entertainment.

Zoe Saldana stars opposite Bradley Cooper in the thriller The Words, which premiered at Sundance last January. She is also reprising her role as Uhura in the Star Trek sequel, currently in production and due out next year.


Paramount Pictures has acquired the action-heist spec script developed by Moneyball producer Michael De Luca, titled Swindle, for Zoe Saldana and Megan Fox to star in and co-produce.

No word on what exactly the film's plot will be, but apparently it was a hot property before Paramount picked it up, as both Universal was also on the chased to acquire it.

Deadline notes that the project came out of a desire by Saldana and Fox wanting to do a movie together (really? I had no idea they were tight like that).

It's called Swindle, so I suppose there'll be some deception used to deprive someone of money or other possessions, usually.

A Saldana/Fox pairing isn't one I've ever considered; but let's see what develops here.

Keep on making that paper, sista! Her male co-stars leave a lot to be desired, but I can't blame her for making a living.

It's that time of the year... some quckie TV pilot casting news...

First, relative newcomer Aja Naomi King has been cast in the CW’s medical drama pilot, First Cut (yay, another TV medical drama) which centers on the life of a doctor, fresh out of medical school, who works at a hospital.

Ms King will play a surgical intern.

Surgical intern? Yipppeeeee. Please don't let her be a ghetto rat who was miraculously saved by "the saviors" who also convince her that it's best to pretend she isn't a WOC.

The CW scored major viewer points this weekend when they announced that Doctor Who and Torchwood alum Freema Agyeman will be joining the cast of its planned pilot The Carrie Diaries, a prequel, of sorts, to the Sex & The City series.

Deadline reports that The Carrie Diaries is based on Candace Bushnell’s novel, and chronicles Carrie Bradshaw’s coming of age in the 1980s when she asks her first questions about love, sex, friendship and family while exploring the worlds of high school and Manhattan. Agyeman will play the role of Larissa, Carrie’s mentor, a hip, cutting-edge editor/party girl who works at Interview magazine.

Many sci-fi fans will know Agyeman from her time spent on DW and TW as Martha Jones, and later in the series as Dr. Martha Jones-Smith. Agyeman is widely considered to have been the first official companion of African descent in the history of the Doctor Who series; a fact famously disputed by Agyeman's co-star and onscreen husband Noel Clarke, who played Mickey Smith, a character who rode in the Doctor's TARDIS before Martha.

More recently, Agyeman has been seen as attorney Alesha Phillips, on ITV's Law & Order: UK.

Freema! Freema! Freema! Freemaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! I love this woman and only she can entice me to sit through THIS! I hope her character gets some happily and regularly!

BET has given a pilot order to what will be an hour-long series from the Akils, which will follow the professional and private family life of a black woman, who is also the host of a popular Atlanta-based talk show host.

Today, it's been announced that Gabrielle Union has been hired to play the lead in Single Black Female.

The fact that it'll be an hour-long show is worth noting. How many hour-long scripted drama series does BET air, or has BET ever aired?

Dare we hope that single + Black + female are being used in the positive sense? Congrats Gabrielle. Lead on!

Actress Tymberlee Hill has been cast in the NBC comedy pilot Lady Friends; and ABC Family has given the greenlight to the comedy pilot Baby Daddy, which co-stars Tahj Mowry.

Baby Daddy will air this summer, and is a series about a guy named Ben, who suddenly becomes a father to a baby girl when she is left at his doorstep by an ex-girlfriend. Ben decides to raise the baby with the help of his mother Bonnie, his brother Danny, and his friends Tucker (Mowry) and Riley, who has a secret crush on him.

She'll be BFF to a guy named Ben? I guess this is the part where we should be grateful Tymberlee/Tucker she isn't the BabyMama!

Best known for playing Ashleigh on the ABC Family show Greek, actress Amber Stevens has nabbed a lead role in the planned CW drama pilot Joey Dakota.

Stevens (who is repped by talent agency du jour ICM) will star in the role of Maya on Joey Dakota, which is basically the U.S. version of the popular Israeli show Danny Hollywood.

Joey Dakota, a romantic-time-travel-musical, centers on Maya, a documentary filmmaker who travels back in time to the 1990s where she meets and falls in love with the rock star subject of her film.

When she unexpectedly returns to present day, she must find her way back to the past to reunite with her love and prevent his untimely death.

What are the chances her rock star subject will be an Asian male? 0%. A Black male? O%. A hispanic, but non-white male? 0%. A non-black, non-Asian or hispanic "white" male? 100% Is there any chance CW will shock me with the male lead? Not a chance? Didn't think so.

Regina King has expressed her desire to portray the first Black New York Congresswoman and Presidential Candidate Shirley Chisholm previously. A few years ago, she mentioned it on an interview with Kam Williams and in THIS interview this past January, in which The Daily Beast states that King, "hopes to one day pen and star in a docudrama." Most recently, Kerry Washington mentioned Regina King and the project in THIS interview with Kam Williams just last month, where Washington says, "And I just heard that Regina King is doing Shirley Chisholm, perfect casting, which is another story that has to be told."

Does Ms. Washington know something we don't?

Last time anything was mentioned on S&A about a film biopic of Chisholm was back in 2010 at the old site, when Tambay posted about Viola Davis being eyed to portray the the 72' presidential runner for a democratic nomination in a feature film written by Camille Thomasson and produced by Bryan Gambogi and Grant Anderson of Creative Monster Productions.

Regina King was my first girl crush. If it comes down between her or Viola, SAYONARA Viola! Aren't the Boondocks returning to television? I tried to translate one episode of that show into Japanese and nearly died from the effort.

The original 2010 film, Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief, is said to have grossed $226.5M at the worldwide box office. Community actress Yvette Nicole Brown will join original star Brandon T. Jackson for the next installment of what's shaping up to be a lucrative franchise, in Percy Jackson & The Olympians: Sea Of Monsters.

Jackson will be reprising his role of Grover from the original film, while Brown will be part of a trio of new actors who portray The Fates, a band of mythical goddesses who control the destiny of humanity.

Note to self: When you see the Aussie ripped version of this movie, remember that you support sisters getting paid. They do their jobs for the same reason you do yours. Remember! Remember!

Phylicia Rashad is returning to the small screen, joining NBC's updated Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde drama pilot titled Do No Harm.

The program will revolve around a brilliant neurosurgeon and his dangerous alter-ego that disrupts his personal and processional life.

Phylicia Rashad will play Dr. Vanessa Young, the chief of surgery as well as boss to the neurosurgeon with the split personality.

Assuming the series is picked up, this will be Mrs Rashad's first small screen series starring role since CBS' 1996-2000 comedy Cosby.

Second... Tiffany Hines (Nikita) has joined the cast of ABC’s drama pilot Americana, described as a soap about a famous fashion industry clan, starring Anthony LaPaglia, as the patriarch of "a sprawling family who just welcomed a new member, Alice Clarke (Ashley Greene), a young designer whose shocking arrival turns the family and the legendary label inside out."

Hines will play a character named Shane - a beautiful medical student and Alice’s best friend who she recruits to model in a fashion show, and who later learns that her life is about to change and not necessarily for the better.

Mrs. Rashad is a doctor, not a lawyer and Tiffany is a medical student AND someone's BFF? And they threw in Anthony LaPaglia? Ugh huh.

Toni Trucks has joined CBS' new legal drama pilot Baby Big Shot, which centers on the life of a "working-class woman named Marina who uses her street smarts to compete with her more polished colleagues at a top New York law firm."

Trucks isn't playing Marina unfortunately; her character, Cindi, will be Marina's "edgy secretary and "comradette" in arms."

BFF again?! Two steps forward, ten steps back! I wonder how this show defines, "edgy?" I hope it isn't an euphemism for AngyBlackWomen.

Yaya DaCosta has joined the cast of a Roland Emmerich drama pilot for ABC, written by Emmerich and Harold Kloser and to be directed by Emmerich, which centers on "an astrophysics grad student in NYC who learns that he is the chosen one to destroy the forces of evil."

Ms DaCosta will play a character named Amy, described as "a member of a very special Council who befriends Carter (the one), well aware of his unique calling."

Yaya will likely next be seen in Andrew Dosunmu's sophomore feature film Ma'George, currently in post-production.

Based on Hollywhite's view of the world, you'd think women couldn't be scientists. I can only imagine what the Council is. Interestingly enough, when I was seeking models for several of my stories, the husband and several lab rats consistently chose Yaya over all other Black actresses except one. You'll read about her soon.

Viola Davis and Zoe Saldana will join Uma Thurman, David Stathairn, F. Murray Abraham, Paul Giamatti, Ellen Burstyn and Evan Rachel Wood and several others in an all-star ensemble cast who will appear in Liz Garbus' Marrilyn Monroe documentary titled Fragments, which is being handled by StudioCanal, partly-based on a 2010 collection of poems, intimate notes, and letters penned by Monroe, which reportedly sold 600.000 copies in 22 countries.

Each actor will give voice to various characters from Marilyn's life - for example, as Screen Daily notes, Giamatti will read as director George Cukor, and F Murray Abraham will read as Monroe's psychiatrist, all of them inidividual pieces of a puzzle, collectively conveying "Marilyn's fears, anxieties, the men in her life, agents of both good and evil, and the context of the world she lived in."

The film is currently in production, with an expected completion date of August 5, 2012.

It's not entirely clear what real-life characters in Monroe's like Viola and Zoe and the rest of the cast of actors will read as.

Zoe and Viola scream, "Cha-ching! Cha-Ching! Cha-Ching!" Hateya claps and cheers them on as they race to the bank.

Sanaa Lathan has joined the cast of the Starz drama series Boss (which stars Kelsey Grammer as ruthless Chicago mayor Tom Kane) in a regular role to start during the second season of the show.

Ms Lathan will play a character named Mona, Mayor Kane’s "incorruptible new chief of staff, who becomes an obsession for him," as Deadline describes it.

Sanaa will next be seen alongside Forest Whitaker and Anthony Mackie in the Voodoo thriller Vipaka, though I'm not certain where that currently stands.

If we look under the definition of Black don't crack, we'll find Sanaa's picture there. Does this woman age at all?

Nicole Beharie has joined the cast of 42, the upcoming Jackie Robinson biopic announced a few months ago, that direcor Brian Helgeland and Legendary Pictures are developing.

The new film is based on the life of history’s most celebrated baseball figure, Jackie Robinson, made in collaboration with Robinson’s widow, Rachel Robinson.

And that is exactly who Nicole Beharie has signed on to play - Jackie Robinson's wife Rachel Robinson, née Rachel Isum.

Beharie will join relative newcomer Chadwick Boseman (who's worked primarily in television on shows like Fringe, Justified and Castle) who will play Jackie Robinson in the film.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner. Nicole Beharie was considered to be the most beautiful Black actress in Hollywhite among the Asian males in my institute. Only YaYa came close. It's interesting that they went for the women who had the most "typical" African features. FYI, I didn't use every single Black actress out there, but I had compiled quite a list.

Nicole rocks on so many levels. Love her! Love her! She's so TINY! She's not even taller than me.
She is also in Shame, My Last Day Without You, Express, The Small of Her Back and American Violet.

Concerns that all the *shine* she received from her role in The Help may not translate to additional and varied roles may need to be rethought :)

She's already attached to co-star in Diablo Cody's directorial debut which begins production next month; and this afternoon brings word that the Octavia Spencer, the award-winning actress, and favorite to win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress at the ceremony later this month, has joined Chris Evans, John Hurt and Tilda Swinton in South Korean Bong Joon-Ho's sci-fi thriller Snow Piercer.

Some of you will recognize Joon-Ho as the mastermind behind that thrilling 2006 creature-feature The Host; he'll be directing from his own script, a project that will be produced by another South Korean superstar filmmaker Chan Wook-Park (Oldboy).

Synop for Snow Piercer:

Set in a future where, after a failed experiment to stop global warming, an Ice Age kills off all life on the planet except for the inhabitants of the Snow Piercer, a train that travels around the globe and is powered by a sacred perpetual-motion engine. A class system evolves on the train but a revolution brews.

Octavia Spencer will play one of the trains passengers who joins the revolt in order to save her son.

With those names behind the camera, and those infront of the camera, as well as an original sci-fi plot, Ms Spencer is in very good company here!

After shooting Diablo Cody's project, she'll move directly onto this one, which begins production in April.

I dare say that this is our one and ONLY actual Blasian-related entry (squint to see the connection) and that's a shame. I wish Octavia the best. I loved her before she got that statute for a movie I'll never pay to see. That's all right though because I know many "white" folks who just had to have a copy!

There are certainly more entries over at Shadow and Act, but I'm tired. We'll do this again another day. Thank the heavens our sisters are working. I wish they had better roles, but I'll try not to be greedy and be happy that they can earn a living and pay their own bills.



  1. Hollywhite still isn't getting it right, but they seem to recognize that they can't continue to profit if these gorgeous women are unemployed. Nonetheless, the powers that be must do better.

    1. You mind if I borrow some of this for the Black Girls Club?

    2. @Ankh
      All of this information came from the Shadow and Act blog -- http://blogs.indiewire.com/shadowandact/ -- Because I don't write for them, I credited them for this information at the beginning of the post. I'll also do so at the end.

    3. Yes, but your commentary was what really stood out to me.

    4. @Ankh,

      I'd be happy if my ramblings contributed to something positive.

  2. Thanks for this Hateya.

    1. @Meanie

      You're welcome. It is wonderful seeing all of these gorgeous Black women together in one post.

  3. I absolutely adore Shadow and Act but I got there more for the short films they post now and then. I don't watch much TV and prefer to enjoy short films over the internet. It is pretty amazing the amount of work done by POC online, I'm currently watching an amazing Kenyan series.

    Also, Nicole Beharie is so beautiful *__*

    1. @EccentricYoruba

      Though my focus is primary on Black women, I'm not ignoring the other contributions. I have little scraps of paper everywhere reminding me to track down a copy of this or that. I understand what you mean about the POC online. I'm always running into something new. Alas, since I don't have time for TV in general, it's also tough to keep up with a web series in progress because I'm still flighty and scatterbrained. Once I hear that one is complete, I'd like to sit back and watch consecutive episodes.

      Nicole is beyond lovely and natural, too.

  4. Absolutely loved Nicole Beharie in American Violet and really looking forward to seeing her in more things. Great list if I just blur out all the BFFs.

    1. @GoddessMaverick

      I own both American Violet and The Express and I hope to watch them soon. As for the shows, I can only hope the BFF-angles aren't detrimental.

  5. For some reason, I'm nervous. I feel like it's going to get screwed up somehow. I've lost all faith in TV.

    1. Quit synchin' with me. Mind you, I like that television has been wooing Black actors, because it's a predictable schedule, a steady paycheck, and steady exposure. BUT...Hollywhite has a nasty habit of starting something good and then ruining it.

    2. @Amaya and Ankh

      I've never understood why the writers can't take a moment or two out of their day and brainstorm with a WOC about her character. I wonder how many of them revert to stereotypes because they can't think of anything else to do.

    3. I've never understood why the writers can't take a moment or two out of their day and brainstorm with a WOC about her character.

      Maybe they do, but they don't like what she has to say.

    4. If the powers that be ignore sound advice, then they deserve the steady string of failed show they're pumping out.

  6. This is some interesting information

    1. If you have time, drop by Shadow and Act sometimes and find out what POC are doing. Believe me, Black people worldwide are creating and doing their own things. All we need now is a reliable distribution network and translators.

  7. I guess this goes with the list...?

    Naomi Harris is going to be one of the Bond girls in the movie Skyfall coming out Nov 2012. Her character's name is Eve. According to wiki: "Early speculation suggested that Harris would play Miss Moneypenny, though the character's first name was revealed as "Eve" with no surname disclosed, and she was specifically described as "a field agent". Despite ongoing speculation from tabloids that Eve would be revealed as Moneypenny, Harris herself dismissed claims that she would be playing the character, stating that "Eve is not remotely office-bound". According to Harris, Eve "[believes] she is Bond's equal, but she is really his junior".


    1. @Cece D

      Yes, it does!!! This post only goes back as far as late January 2012 and Naomi's entry was made in early December 2011. When time permits, I'll cut/paste another post and try to include as many more actresses as possible. If you see anyone else before I do that, please leave a link. Thank you!

  8. Great list! I don't watch tv but I will make it a point to support all of their projects.

    1. @HazelEyedErica

      Even if I wanted to, I can't see any of the shows here and that's why I hope the rest of you could do something directly. I try to buy as many DVDs possible featuring Black women.

  9. @ Hateya
    I had a question about something totally unrelated to this post but it is related to the Blasian narrative. My email is on my blogger profile. Would you feel at all comfortable emailing me to discuss?

  10. @student,

    I can do that. Forgive me in advance because I'll be a traveling chicken without a head this week...AGAIN.

  11. @ Hateya

    This was an amazing post! I'll definitely have to check out Shadow and Act in the future.

  12. Aja Naomi King...Christ take my soul o.O

    And Nicole Beharie. Oh God.


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