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Leading Men of 2016

Leading Men of 2016

Recently I wrote about young black women finally getting quality roles in mainstream media. I never want to omit black men from the conversation of representation because they are equally as important. There are many vehicles where black men are killing it but on the indie front, carefree and slice of life narratives still don't include them. Also, studio projects never really center men of color in light-hearted fare or non-musical roles. So, I present to you a list of actors who would be perfect leading men in the quintessential independent film or studio feature film, more specifically rom-coms (you know what we like!). Also, I pitch some ideas I feel would best utilize each actor's best qualities.

Mamoudou Athie
A graduate of Yale School of Drama, Mamoudou Athie is a relative newcomer to the small screen. He stars as Grandmaster Flash in Netflix's The Get Down and the independent film Jean of the Joneses. Athie has a strong presence and truly transforms into the few roles I have seen him in. Remarkably,he possess a joy that bubbles over on screen and resonates to his audience .  The thespian has classic, beautiful features that is reminiscent of an older star that recently broke my heart.  He looks like Gucci Mane, if Radric Davis were born in a suburb in Massachusetts. His aesthetic screams star of studio rom-com directed by a beautiful black woman of course. 

Pitch: Fade In. Mamoudou plays down on is luck writer Cameron Bell. He gets a job as a staff  writer on a once successful show on the cusp on cancellation. It's leading lady is going through a lot on top of her pending unemployment. Cameron finds inspiration in the person he learns to be Zora Brooks (Samira Wiley).

Wyatt Cenac
Wyatt Cenac is probably most recognizable from his stint on The Daily Show and Medicine for Melancholy. The latter being one of the few examples of romantic comedies starring two black leads. Cenac is acerbic, nerdy and multi-talented, a quirky girl's dream. His humor is dry and quick, perfect for a beautiful yarn about black quadragenarians.

Pitch: Mid-life. Wyatt Cenac as a cynical college professor, Dr. Lowry, who encounters an older undergrad that changes his perspective and his life. Sanaa Lathan stars opposite Cenac as Jennifer Foster who is continuing her education after an adventurous life.

Donald Glover
Donald Glover writes, directs and stars in FX's Atlanta. He also provides music for the series. Where comedians of the 90's and 00's multi-tasked by monopolizing 4 or 5 roles in one project Donald takes on work off-screen. I bet he's a dope boom operator.

Pitch: Home. Glover stars a silver-spoon fed bachelor in the midst of an existential crisis. On his journey across the world he meets a refugee in search of a place to call home. Amber Riley portrays Gabi, a free spirit with a lot of burdens. The story takes place across many contents and explores the themes of penance and safety in the global black diaspora.

Edwin Hodge
Edwin Hodge along side his brother Aldis, have been acting since childhood. Edwin is racking up credits and dazzling audiences with his perfect teeth and gentle demeanor. He can be seen on Secrets and Lies on ABC with Michael Ealy.

Pitch: Out of Order. After some truly dismal relationships Jarvis Lowe (Edwin Hodge) decides to only date women alphabetically. If he completes the alphabet with no success he vows to give up on love. Half-way through the list, he meets the beautiful and brilliant, Alanna Watkins. This meeting turns his plan on it's head. If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans, right?

LaKeith Stanfield

Lakeith Stanfield is nothing short of captivating. As Darius on breakout hit Atlanta, he is aloof, dizzying and intermittently wise. If Rose Nylund was a black man born in the 90's she'd be Darius.

Pitch: The Mixtape. Do you ever wonder about the poor women who had to endure bad music and footed the bill for now flourishing rappers back in the day? Successful rapper Jaden 'Atlas' Winters is on the cusp of greatness but life forces him to make amends with his first love and jilted lover Jayla (Zoe Kravitz). Now J is a successful music writer and Atlas's only hope.

Aldis Hodge

Aldis Hodge has a smoldering stare and fiery aura that draws us in. Like brother Edwin, his smile is contagious. While leading Underground, the star also has some Blockbusters lined up for 2017 including Hidden Figures and Jack Reacher: Never Go Back. Aldis Hodge can truly play any role and has impeccable taste in choosing what characters he embodies. Underground's Noah is the G.O.A.T.!

Pitch: Peace. Small-town transplant Malcolm Drew buys his first home and starts his new career. Life gets strange when he is haunted by the sweetest ghost. Can he help her discover why her spirit lingers or will he fall in love with her? Zazie Beetz stars opposite Hodge.

 Chancellor Bennet

Don't you love when rappers act? It's usually a seamless transition whereas actors trying to mount musical careers always leave a bad taste in our mouths. Rapping is very theatrical and narrative in form so emoting isn't that much of a stretch. Nonetheless, I think Chance the Rapper-Chancellor Bennet- would be the perfect addition to an independent film. He is free-spirited, lovable, and weird. By channeling himself, he is definitely leading man material.

Pitch: Bars. It's 1996 and music is the world to Brandon Carpenter. He lives it and breathes it which leads to him enlisting his cousin and his sister's best friend to form a band. Tequan Richmond and Kiersey Clemmons co-star.

H.R Belser is a freelance writer and quirk aficionado. Narratives about love and comedy are her favorites but she longs to see racial diversity in all media. If you are looking for her, she is currently working on her first web series or tweeting a zinger. Follow her on twitter @unicorinkk.


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