Netflix has been putting an emphasis on Black talent and the influence our culture has had on entertainment since the outset. From the company’s Strong Black Leads sub-brand, which aims to amplify Black voices and stories, to their recent acquiring of several classic Black sitcoms, the streaming service has continued to place Black thespians front and center. That’s in addition to working with OGs like Mara Brock Akil, Kenya Barris, and Shonda Rhimes behind the scenes to create even more incredible, boundary-shifting content.
Over in Shondaland, for example, Bridgerton viewers were shocked (in the most beautiful way) when they realized several Black faces were playing royals and nobles in a show set in the historical Regency era of London. In fact, the show’s Queen Charlotte (played by Golda Rosheuvel) is a Black woman — and, interesting sidebar, Queen Charlotte may have been Black in real life as well, although historians and artists allegedly whitewashed her appearance over time.
Despite our very ugly past, we’re here, setting the record straight — and Netflix is assisting. To celebrate Black History Month, one of the best times of year, we’ve gathered a list of 16 up-and-coming Black faces you should definitely pay attention to, as they’ve quite literally taken over the streaming service with record-breaking viewership, incomparable talent, style, and grace.
In Bridgerton, Regé-Jean Page takes on the leading role of Simon Bassett, better known as the Duke of Hastings. His troubled, but handsome, character has had viewers obsessed for months. Page is also pretty well-known for his recent role as a lawyer in ABC’s For The People — another interesting Shondaland series.
Also in Bridgerton, Ruby Barker plays Marina Thompson, a young Black girl who is suddenly thrown into the scene to find a proper husband amongst London’s most elite. She quickly steals the spotlight from all the other ladies looking to marry in the Ton, then falls from grace just as swiftly. Barker’s UK film How To Stop A Recurring Dream is due next month.
Another outstanding actor in Bridgerton, Martin Imhangbe plays the centered and settled friend of the Duke of Hastings, who is a the commitment phobe. Imhangbe is also known for his role as a Duke in The Tragedy of King Richard the Second.
Newly nominated for an NAACP Image Award thanks to her performance in Netflix’s critically acclaimed film, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, this isn’t Taylour Paige’s first rodeo. While still up-and-coming, we’ve seen the beauty in High School Musical 3, Ballers, Grey’s Anatomy, Hit The Floor, and more. Tune into the NAACP Image Awards on BET next month, March 27, to see if Paige wins the night.
Professional dancer Kylie Jefferson took our breath away with her talent in Tiny Pretty Things, a Netflix Original that follows a young Black girl who joins an elite ballet company after the mysterious death of dancer Cassie Shore. At 6 years old, Jefferson became the youngest member to ever join the Debbie Allen Dance Company. She was also featured in Netflix’s Debbie Allen documentary, Dance Dreams: Hot Chocolate Nutcracker.
Damon J. Gillespie
Damon J. Gillespie was another standout actor and dancer in season 1 of Tiny Pretty Things. Fans might also recognize Gillespie from Empire and The Society.
Damson Idris needs no introduction, as the actor continues to impress the industry with his many, many projects. Still rising to fame, he was flawless in Netflix’s new film Outside The Wire, opposite Anthony Mackie. He’s also flawless in the critically acclaimed FX series Snowfall and Netflix anthology show Black Mirror. Check him out.
John David Washington
Another riveting actor, John David Washington’s name is on the tip of everyone’s tongues following his portrayal of Malcolm in Netflix’s Malcolm & Marie. Of course, we also know Washington from The Book of Eli, Tenet, and BlacKkKlansman.
Zendaya is not only taking over Netflix, she’s taking over the industry, period. After wowing fans with her stunning portrayal of Rue Bennett in Euphoria, she made history at last year’s Primetime Emmys as the youngest person to ever win Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. Shortly after, Zen is back with another role critics can’t stop talking about. She plays Marie, opposite John David Washington’s Malcolm, in Malcolm & Marie.
Shortly after its release in October, The Queen’s Gambit became the most popular series on Netflix ever — until Lupin hit the streaming service. Moses Ingram played the critical role of Jolene in the show, opposite lead actress Anya Taylor-Joy.
One of the youngest faces on our list, Isaiah Russell-Bailey is serious about his craft and his acting resume reflects that. As far as Netflix goes, Russell-Bailey is best known for his role in sitcom, Family Reunion, and for playing ‘Rewind’ in film, We Can Be Heroes.
Akira Akbar played Russell-Bailey’s twin ‘Fast Forward’ in We Can Be Heroes & she did a flawless job. Akbar has also played in Family Reunion, This Is Us, Grey’s Anatomy, Criminal Minds, and more. Work ethic on fleek.
This is a face you should recognize. Sierra Capri stars as Monse Finnie on the hit Netflix series On My Block. The show follows a group of teenagers in the fictional, gang-riddled L.A. area of Freeridge — and it’s a fan-favorite.
Brett Gray also stars in On My Block, often providing viewers with perfectly-timed comedic relief. In addition to his roles on shows like Law & Order: SVU and Chicago P.D., Gray also played Clarence in an episode of Ava Duvernay’s groundbreaking limited series, When They See Us.
Ama Qamata is a fresh face we just can’t get enough of. Starring in Netflix’s Blood and Water, Qamata plays Puleng Kumalo, a South African teen who thinks she may have found her long-lost sister who was abducted at birth.
Last, but certainly not least, we’ve got to give it up to this queen. From A Million Little Things to aTypical Wednesday, Emmy Raver-Lampman kills every role she takes on. For Netflix, she plays Allison Hargreeves in The Umbrella Academy. Hargreeves is a powerful hero who can control others with just the sound of her voice.