We’ve barely scratched the surface of real life Black heroes and heroines after our last article, 8 historical figures and the actors who should play them. So, we’re back with Part 2, since there are so many Black legends and heroes whose stories need to be told!
Here are 9 more Black historical figures that deserve their own biopics and actors and actresses who should play them:
1) Aisha Hinds as Octavia Butler.
Octavia Butler is known by many to be one of the pioneers of Afrofuturism. Born in Pasadena, California, Butler broke many barriers as a novelist in the realm of science fiction, a genre predominantly known to be heavily white and heavily male. Many of her novels, such as Kindred and Parable Of The Sower, have been read in many college and high school classrooms across the country. In fact, the latter book, released in 1994, forecasted America’s grim state of affairs and even features a character who, in his own words, wants to “make America great again.” From overcoming dyslexia, climbing Machu Picchu and blazing a trail for many Black writers, Octavia Butler’s story is certainly ripe for a feature film. Aisha Hinds gave a criminally-overlooked performance as Harriet Tubman in the second season of Underground. Anyone who could portray Harriet Tubman could surely do Butler’s harrowing tale of speaking dreams into existence justice.
2) Colman Domingo as Nat King Cole
Known for his turns on The Walking Dead and If Beale Street Could Talk, Colman Domingo is also a talented playwright. The triple threat also co-wrote the musical, Lights Out: The Nat King Cole Story, with former Psych actor Dule Hill in the role of the music legend. The famous crooner Nat King Cole was the first African-American man to host an American television series. However, would it be too much to ask for a feature film adaptation of Lights Out, with Domingo in the role of Nat King Cole? Resemblance aside, we think Domingo’s refined persona and acting talents would do Nat King Cole’s debonaire persona justice.
3) DeWanda Wise as Natalie Cole
Known for her role as Nola Darling in Spike Lee’s hit Netflix series She’s Gotta Have It, DeWanda Wise has appeared on many fancasting lists. Here’s an idea: have Wise portray Natalie Cole in a biopic titled This Will Be, after Cole’s famous song. A Natalie Cole biopic would document highs and lows of her singing career, from becoming the first African American artist to win the Grammy Award for Best New Artist to her musical rivalry with Aretha Franklin in the late 1970s. Cole was known for her classics such as “Inseparable,” “Our Love,” and the posthumous duet with her father “Unforgettable.”
4) Susan Kelechi Watson as Coretta Scott King
If Susan Kelechi Watson does not receive an Emmy nomination for her performance as Beth Pearson in the “This Is Beth” episode of This Is Us, it would a huge injustice. Watson was one of our choices to play activist Angela Davis in the long overdue biopic slated to be directed by Julie Dash. Susan Kelechi Watson should also star as Coretta Scott King in a biopic about her life. Mrs. King was more than MLK’s wife and her story apart from her husband is compelling. King gave up her dreams of becoming a classical singer to become a leader in the civil rights movement. A groundbreaking civil rights icon in her own right, King became active in the Women’s Movement and LGBT rights after her husband’s passing.
5) Natalie Paul as Eunice Carter
Eunice Carter broke barriers as one of New York’s first African-American lawyers and one of America’s first prosecutors of color. In 1935, she became New York State’s First African American female district attorney. However, what is perhaps most notable about Carter was that she built the 1936 case that was sent infamous mafia kingpin Charles “Lucky” Luciano to prison for compulsory prostitution and running a prostitution racket. Though New York District Attorney Thomas Dewey would get the lion’s share of the praise, there is no doubt that Lucky Luciano’s conviction and imprisonment would not have happened without Carter’s legal skills as ADA and tenacity. Coincidentally, Natalie Paul played a character inspired by Carter in the HBO drama, Boardwalk Empire. Why not follow her debut film performance in Crown Heights by starring in a biopic on how a Black woman took down one of America’s most infamous mob bosses?
6) Adepero Oduye as Nina Simone
Nina Simone’s story needs to be done its justice. As a dark-skinned Black woman, Nina Simone broke many barriers as a musical artist and an activist. When Zoe Saldana, a light-skinned actress, was cast to portray the singer in a biopic, she drew controversy when photos surfaced of her with dark makeup, false teeth and a prosthetic nose to portray Nina Simone. Adepero Oduye’s performance as Alike in Dee Rees’ acclaimed 2011 film Pariah was overlooked by many. She is our top choice to portray Nina Simone in a redo of her story. It also helps that Oduye portrayed the singer in a short film that she wrote and directed called To Be Free. Would it be so much to ask that Oduye, a dark-skinned Black woman, reprise her role as Simone in a feature film adaptation of her short film, also titled To Be Free? In addition, it would be wise to have Black women take on the roles of in the production of a feature-length Nina Simone biopic with her family’s blessing, if it ever comes to fruition.
7. Queen Latifah as Zora Neale Hurston
This fancasting is nothing new. People have been wanting Queen Latifah to portray the influential novelist and Harlem Renaissance figurehead for some time now. A period drama on Hurston starring Queen Latifah is a no-brainer. The multi-hyphenate entertainer has already proven be the Queen of period pieces. She earned an Academy Award nomination in 2002 for her performance as Matron “Mama” Morton in the musical Chicago, and earned an Emmy nomination for her role as music legend Bessie Smith in the Dee Rees-directed HBO biopic, Bessie.
8) Simone Missick as Pam Grier
Simone Missick showed that she could command the screen with role as Mercedes “Misty” Knight in the short-lived lived Netflix superhero drama Luke Cage and her role as Jade in Nijla Mu’min’s acclaimed coming of age drama, Jinn. Word has come that Pam Grier, arguably cinema’s first action heroine, is developing a biopic on her life, titled Foxy: My Life In Three Acts. She wants Spike Lee to direct her biopic, but there has been no word on who will play Grier. It’s going to take some big shoes and a very talented actress to portray the larger-than-life actress, whose characters practically paved the way other iconic characters, such as Alien’s Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and Terminator’s Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), to grace the big screen. We’re going to throw Simone Missick’s name in the ring as one of the actresses who could do Pam Grier’s story justice.
9) Brittany Inge as Oprah Winfrey
America’s first Black billionaire, an Academy Award nominated actress, an iconic talk show host and a production company owner with her own TV network, what hasn’t Oprah accomplished? Producing her own biopic of course. Currently starring as Crystal Garrett on the new BET drama Boomerang, Brittany Inge’s resemblance to Oprah would make her a perfect candidate to portray her in her younger years when the talk show titan overtook Phil Donahue in the ratings and redefined the talk show format in the 1980s.