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August 29, 2014

TV's Rising Black Actors: Young, Gifted and African-American

by Sandie Angulo Chen, posted Feb 16th 2010 1:30PM
Amber RileyFebruary is Black History Month, and what better way to celebrate than to pay tribute to television's brightest young African-American actors.

Most of you are already fans of critically acclaimed vets like Chandra Wilson ('Grey's Anatomy'), Anthony Anderson ('Law & Order') and Regina King ('Southland'), but there is a new wave of up-and-coming black stars ready to make their mark. Here are 12 of our favorites. Who are yours?Amber RileyFebruary is Black History Month, and what better way to celebrate than to pay tribute to television's brightest young African-American actors.

Most of you are already fans of critically acclaimed vets like Chandra Wilson ('Grey's Anatomy'), Anthony Anderson ('Law & Order') and Regina King ('Southland'), but there is a new wave of up-and-coming black stars ready to make their mark. Here are 12 of our favorites. Who are yours?

Amber Riley

Who She Plays: The amazingly talented -- and stylish -- high-school show-choir singer Mercedes on Fox's addictive hit series 'Glee.'
Why You Should Know Her: Riley, 23, not only has Jennifer Hudson-sized vocals, she's got crack comedic timing and one of primetime's most dazzling smiles. She could do anything from headlining a Broadway musical to recording a solo album, and we'd be on board.

Rutina Wesley and Nelsan EllisRutina Wesley and Nelsan Ellis
Who They Play: She's Sookie's tough-talking, incredibly loyal best friend Tara, and he's Tara's glamorous, burger-flipping, blood-dealing cousin Lafayette on HBO's pulpy vampire drama 'True Blood.'
Why You Should Know Them: The scene-stealing actors are both classically trained Juilliard graduates with theater backgrounds and big-screen credits. Wesley is bound to end up either back on Broadway or movies, while Ellis, who's also a producer and an award-winning playwright, already has a role lined up opposite Diane Lane in Disney's upcoming drama 'Secretariat.'

Mehcad BrooksMehcad Brooks
Who He Plays: On ABC's legal drama 'The Deep End,' he's Malcolm, an ambitious young attorney who's the guardian of his teenage younger brother.
Why You Should Know Him: Before his gig on 'The Deep End,' the 29-year-old former model had memorable recurring parts on several shows, most recently as Tara's occasionally possessed boyfriend Eggs on 'True Blood.' With his leading-man looks and talent for landing ongoing TV roles, he's clearly headed for big things.

Katerina GrahamKaterina Graham

Who She Plays: The fiercely loyal, psychic young witch Bonnie in The CW's hot supernatural series 'The Vampire Diaries.'
Why You Should Know Her: A true triple threat, 20-year-old Graham is a model, dancer and singer who most recently collaborated with Will.I.Am. She's set to star in Cedric the Entertainer's new comedy 'Chicago Pulaski Jones,' the college crime drama 'The Roommate' and 'Bleachers,' a loose remake of 'The Breakfast Club.'

Tristan WildsTristan Wilds

Who He Plays: Dixon, the sweet and athletic Brandon Walsh-type on The CW's revamp of '90210.'
Why You Should Know Him: The 20-year-old can play Beverly Hills smooth talker or Baltimore street dealer. Those unfamiliar with HBO's critically adored 'The Wire' should check out seasons 4 and 5 for one of the finest television performances by a teenager ever. He's also slated to play a member of the Tuskegee Airmen in the George Lucas-produced 'Red Tails,' an historical drama due out later this year.

Jesse WilliamsJesse Williams
Who He Plays: Dr. Avery, one of the competitive -- and gorgeous -- Mercy West transplants who winds up at Seattle Grace on 'Grey's Anatomy.'
Why You Should Know Him: Williams uses his many talents -- like his piercing bedroom eyes, a killer smile, and sexy-but-arrogant swagger -- to play all of his roles, including Avery, or McHottie, as some 'Grey's' fans refer to him. If past characters such as "The Hotness Monster" on 'Greek' and Alexis Bledel's art model boyfriend on 'The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2' are any indication, Williams should have a brilliant career as a heartthrob.

Michael B JordanMichael B. Jordan and Jurnee Smollett
Who They Play: 'Friday Night Lights' season 4 additions Vince, a juvenile offender forced to join the football team, and Jess, the responsible daughter of a former football hero, respectively.
Why You Should Know Them: Before joining the 'FNL' cast, Jordan, 23, appeared on nearly a dozen TV shows, most memorably as the conflicted Wallace on 'The Wire' and the troubled Reggie on daytime's 'All My Children.' Smollett, also 23, is an Jurnee Smollettaward-winning actress ('Eve's Bayou,' 'The Great Debaters,' 'Cosby') who wowed audiences with her touching guest spot on the season 4 finale of 'Grey's Anatomy' as Derek and Meredith's first successful brain-tumor patient.


Dule HillDulé Hill

Who He Plays: Ultra-reliable best friend and reluctant crime sleuth on USA's popular detective comedy 'Psych.'
Why You Should Know Him: Hill first broke through as President Bartlett's personal aide on 'The West Wing' -- a role that netted him an Emmy nomination and two ensemble SAG Awards. Now that he's the charming Dr. Watson-esque straight man to co-star Jame Roday's fake-psychic Holmes on 'Psych,' it's clear primetime is where Hill belongs.

Jasika NicoleJasika Nicole
Who She Plays: Astrid, the young FBI agent assigned to assist with mad-scientist Dr. Walter Bishop's creepy experiments on Fox's sci-fi thriller 'Fringe.'
Why You Should Know Her: Nicole's Gal Friday routine with John Noble's Dr. Bishop brings some necessary comic relief to the freaky show. On top of her regular role on 'Fringe,'Nicole is a seasoned theater actress, comic-book author, blogger, illustrator and gay rights activist.

Jamie Lee KirchnerJaime Lee Kirchner
Who She Plays: Sonia, one of the three lead nurses who show doctors how treating patients is really done on NBC's medical drama 'Mercy'
Why You Should Know Her: She can act, sing and dance -- whether in Broadway musicals (she played Mimi in the national tour of 'Rent'), music videos (Beyonce's 'Work it Out') or catchy Old Navy commercials. After guesting on several dramas and starring in the short-lived WB series 'Just Legal,' Kirchner seems to have finally found a show that sticks.

For more about remarkable African-Americans, check out the third installment of the HBO documentary 'The Black List Vol. 3,' which profiles, among others, Whoopi Goldberg, Hill Harper, model Beverly Johnson and Oscar-nominated director Lee Daniels ('Precious'). It airs on HBO throughout the month.

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