25 star-studded Black actors you should know (2024)

Famous Black actors continue to change the status quo in Hollywood by the day. Some exciting young Black actors are still working their way toward success, playing outstanding roles in fresh new feature films, while there’s some talent that’s been on the scene for a while who are just now getting their flowers. Combined, these rising famous Black actors are stamping their legacy on cinema.

We’re going to look beyond theMount Rushmore of famous Black American actors to cover some unique talent you’ve probably seen before but may have been wondering more about.

25 famous Black American actors and their most important roles

Here’s a star-studded list of 25 famous Black actors in Hollywood you should know.

#1 John David Washington

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The son of Denzel Washington shows he’s made his own strides toward success without relying solely on the family name, thanks to his impressive talent. He was a record-breaking football player in college and later played in the NFL for two years. It was a few years after his football career ended that he decided to follow in the footsteps of his father, continuing their legacy of famous Black male actors.

He technically got his first role at 8 years old — a single line in Spike Lee’s “Malcolm X” — but Washington was 31 when he really started his acting career. He was a regular on the HBO show “Ballers,” though it wasn’t until 2017 that he was cast in his breakout role as Ron Stallworth in “BlacKkKlansman.” This earned him a nod from the Golden Globes, and he won the Breakout Star award from the IMDb STARmeter Awards.

#2 Tracee Ellis Ross

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If you’ve ever watched the TV show “Girlfriends” then you know exactly who Tracee is. While playing the expressive and big-hearted lawyer Joan on the show, she was known for being a successful, trail-blazing professional by day, and the glue that holds their dynamic sister-friend circle together by night.

Tracee is the daughter of the legendary Diana Ross and it shows that her extraordinary talent runs in her DNA. After her long stint on “Girlfriends,” she became the star of the ABC show “Black-Ish” and was paid a whopping $200,000 per episode. Today she owns and operates the natural hair care line, PATTERN Beauty.

#3 Carl Weathers

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Long live the great Carl Weathers. A legend in film and TV, he started out as a defensive end for the Oakland Raiders, where he played for two years. He played supporting roles in stereotypical films for years until eventually being cast as Apollo Creed in “Rocky,” which helped change the landscape of how Black actors can move around in Hollywood.

He went on to play the lead role in the hit TV show In the “Heat of the Night.” Weathers then continued to make waves in Hollywood with incredible performances in films such as “Predator” and “Happy Gilmore.”He was even the voice of Jax in “Mortal Kombat X.” His legacy in cinema and TV came to a climax as the director and guest actor on the Star Wars show “The Mandalorian” until he died of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease on Feb. 2, 2024.

#4 Halle Bailey

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The Atlanta-born “Little Mermaid” star faced a lot ofcontroversy around her role in the hit 2023 movie. People were so used to watching an image of a white little mermaid on repeat they couldn’t wrap their heads around a Black female actor giving the famous Disney character some flavor.

Beyonce’s mentee had to break the mold and change the status quo on how fictional movie characters can be cast and portrayed. Halle and her sister Chloe are also signed to Bey’s label, Parkwood Entertainment, as a singing duo.

#5 Leon Thomas III

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A talented entertainer from a young age, Leon launched his career in 2003 as Simba in the Broadway adaptation of “The Lion King.” He went on to captivate audiences worldwide in theater until he got his first appearance on the big screen in “August Rush.”

He landed his breakout role on the Nickelodeon show “Victorious” in 2010 and has been a powerful force in entertainment ever since. A talented musician as well, today you can find Leon performing his original music around the world and writing songs for billboard-topping artists.

#6 Jordan Fisher

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Fisher is a multi-talented actor, singer and dancer known for his roles in “To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You” and “Rent: Live.” He’s a Disney Channel star all the way, playing in films such as “Teen Beach Movie” and winning “Dancing with the Stars” in 2017. His versatility extends all the way to Broadway, where he played John Laurens/Philip Hamilton in “Hamilton” and as Orpheus in “Hadestown.

#7 Storm Reid

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As one of our younger Black famous female actors, Storm first rose to prominence for her breakout role as Meg Murry in “A Wrinkle in Time,” in spite of some backlash. She then went on to captivate audiences worldwide as a cinematic performer with her roles in the shows “Euphoria,” executive produced by Drake, and “The Invisible Man.”

Born in Atlanta in 2003, she is now one of the most sought-after young Black actors in Hollywood. She got a nod from the Emmys for Outstanding Guest Actress In A Drama Series for her part in “The Last of Us.”

#8 Mahershala Ali

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Mahershala Ali is a two-timeOscar winner who is no stranger to the big screen. He’s celebrated for his powerful performance in “Moonlight” and was even recently cast alongside Julia Roberts in “Leave the World Behind.”

Ali’s illustrious career spans both television and film, with standout roles in “House of Cards,” and “Rue Detective.” If that’s not enough, he’s also been nominated for an Emmy for his narration in “Chimp Empire.”

#9 Trevante Rhodes

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Born Feb. 10, 1990, in Louisiana, Trevante skyrocketed to fame with his powerful portrayal of Chiron in the Academy Award-winning film “Moonlight.” Being a former track and football star at the University of Texas, he was set to become a landman in the petroleum industry, but after taking some theatre classes while in college, transitioned to acting.

His versatility shows in his ability to play roles that only a handful of actors in the world can achieve. Not just anyone can play Mike Tyson, and Trevante surely delivers in the Hulu series, “Mike.”

#10 Janelle Monáe

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Not just a talented vocalist, Janelle, born Dec. 1, 1985, in Kansas City, Kansas, has made significant strides in acting, starring in acclaimed films such as “Moonlight” and “Hidden Figures.” They came from humble beginnings, being the child of a custodian and a sanitation worker.

They also have a knack for horror films, starring in the chilling film “Antebellum.” When they’re not starring in award-winning films, you can catch them topping the billboard charts.

#11 Jay Ellis

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Jay Ellis grew up in a military family and began his career in modeling with a Nike campaign before transitioning to acting. He’s best known for his role as Lawrence Walker in HBO’s “Insecure,” a performance that earned him the prestigiousNAACP Image Award.

Ellis also starred in BET’s “The Game” and appeared in “Top Gun: Maverick” as Reuben “Payback” Fitch. Beyond acting, he is a philanthropist and advocate dedicated to social justice issues and HIV/AIDS awareness, serving as Board Secretary for the American Foundation for Aids Research.​ He is the author of “Did Everyone Have an Imaginary Friend (or Just Me?),” slated for a July 2024 release.

#12 Michael Ealy

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Born Aug. 3, 1973, in the Washington, D.C. area., Ealy is known as a ladies’ man on and off screen. He gained fame with his breakout role in “Barbershop” and continued to captivate audiences in films like “Think Like a Man,” “About Last Night” and “Intruder.”

Aside from playing a determined cop in 50 Cent’s “Power,” Ealy also can be seen in music videos alongside Beyoncè and Mariah Carey.

#13 Amandla Stenberg

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A dynamic force in Hollywood, Amandla Stenberg, born on October 23, 1998, in Los Angeles, rose to fame with her role as Rue in “The Hunger Games.” If you thought she was done taking popular franchises to new heights, she just made her childhood dreams by landing a leading role in a new Star Wars film — and she played the adapted score on her grandfather’s violin for a new Disney featurette.

To see more of Amandla, you can watch her deliver powerful performances in “The Hate U Give” and “Everything, Everything.” Stenberg is also a DJ and an outspoken advocate for mental health and LGBTQ+ rights.

#14 LaKeith Stanfield

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After Googling “how to be an actor,” he manifested his dreams through pure hard work and determination. Through his valiant efforts, LaKeith was able to generate widespread recognition for his role as Marcus in “Short Term 12.”

He continues to impress audiences with standout performances in “Selma,” “Get Out,” and “The Book of Clarence,” where he portrayed FBI informant William O’Neal. Stanfield also received the Gotham Independent Film Ensemble Tribute Award as part of the cast of “The Harder They Fall.

#15 Kelvin Harrison, Jr.

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Born on July 23, 1994, in New Orleans, Kelvin has made his mark as a promising actor in Hollywood due to his work in “Luce,” “Waves,” and “The Trial of the Chicago 7.” He is originally from a musical family, and although he would have been just as successful at music, he transitioned from music to pursue acting.

And it was a great move as he was able to land roles alongside Ice Cube and Tracee Ellis Ross in “The High Note.” Of course, we can’t forget his impressive performance in “Chevalier,” which landed him the 2024 Rising Star Award from the American Black Film Festival.

#16 Algee Smith

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Algee initially gained critical acclaim for his role as Ralph Tresvant in “The New Edition Story.” He then went on to further impress audiences with his powerful performances in “Detroit” and “The Hate U Give.” Algee also made a huge impression on viewers of “Euphoria,” as the show’s main character in the first season.

#17 Sierra McClain

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Born of a music producer father and singer mother, Sierra McClain is quite the talented entertainer herself. She grew up singing and playing piano like her big sister Lauryn, while her other sister, China, was more inclined toward acting.

She emerged on the big screen in 2007 with her role as Sierra in Tyler Perry’s “Daddy’s Little Girls.” Her big break came in 2016 when she landed the part of Nessa Parker on the hit TV show “Empire,” solidifying her position among famous Black actors.

#18 Keke Palmer

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There are some young Black actors who can truly do everything, and Keke Palmer is renowned for her versatile talents as an actress, singer and podcast host. She’s already made history in theatre, being the first Black Cinderella on Broadway, and film with her impressive perfromances in Nickelodeon’s “True Jackson, VP” and Tyler Perry’s “Madea’s Family Reunion.” She recently went viral for grilling Bobbi Althoff about being an industry plant.Her breakthrough came when she was cast in “Akeelah and the Bee,” winning half a dozen awards and has never stopped delivering compelling performances since.

#19 Ariana DeBose

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This young, famous Black actor, trailblazer, singer and dancer rose to prominence with her role in the original Broadway cast of “Hamilton.” She went on to dazzle audiences as Anita in Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story,” earning her an Academy Award. She then flipped the script,” showing her versatility with the TV series “Schmigadoon!” and the Disney film “Wish.”

#20 RJ Cyler

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A charismatic young Black actor known for his breakout role as Earl in “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” RJ, born in Jacksonville, Florida, has captivated audiences with his incredible performances. His versatility shows in his ability to play a father in “Rap sh*t” as well as the biblical prophet Elijah in “The Book of Clarence.” He starred as Blue Ranger Billy Cranston in “Power Rangers” and portrayed Dan in the Netflix series “Sierra Burgess Is a Loser.”

#21 Akira Akbar

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Breaking into Hollywood playing Monica Rambeau in Captain Marvel at just 11 years old, Akira is making waves in both film and TV.She currently plays Ashley Banks in the Fresh Prince reboot, “Bel Air” She takes her responsibility to the historic role seriously but also sees it as a relevant role to today’s teens. She felt like the role had something current to say about the desire to fit in and still explore who you’re becoming.

Becoming a famous Black female actor at such a young age, she still feels a little awkward being noticed in public. While she loves her roles in front of the camera, she looks forward to trying out her hand at directing or other off-camera roles in storytelling someday soon.

#22 Marsai Martin

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With multiple NAACP and BET awards under her belt before even turning 18, Marsai is a force to be reckoned with and one of the most exciting young famous Black actors working in Hollywood. She’s been cast in multiple commercials since she was 5 years old and landed her breakout role in ABC’s “Black-ish.”

She came up with her own original film idea (“Little,” which came out in 2019 ) and even pitched it to executives at just ten years old. She was the youngest person to get a first-look deal with a studio. Marsai is one of those child prodigies you just can’t ignore, and she is set for many more promising moves in the future. She won a BET “Young Stars” award in 2022.

#23 Jay Pharoah

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Of course, we can’t forget thecomedy pioneer who can perfectly impersonate the rap flows of Jay-Z, Eminem and Lil Wayne. The man did a whole press run rapping almost as well on radio stations as those he was mimicking.

Born in Chesapeake, VA, Jay got his start on “Saturday Night Live,” playing his favorite Black celebrities. In his audition, he wowed judges with his fascinating talent for mimicry and truth-telling humor. He went on to make a variety of film and TV guest appearances and recently began his 2024 comedy tour.

#24 Viola Davis

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Breaking on to the scene in 2008 with her role in “Doubt,” Viola continues to wow audiences with the range of diverse characters she flawlessly embodies. She went on to earn an Emmy for her incredible performance in “How to Get Away With Murder.”

She was the first Black woman to win an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a TV series. Sheachieved EGOT status in 2023 when she won a Grammy for the audiobook version of her memoir, “Finding Me.”

#25 Sterling K. Brown

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This St. Louis native actor was stuck with extra work and guest appearances in film and TV until 2016, when he got his big break in “This Is Us,” where he won an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor.

Many argue that he was killed off too soon in “Black Panther,” but this famous Black actor maximized his screen time and produced a memorable character nonetheless. He then went on to play in “The Predator” remake, “Frozen II,” and “American Fiction.”His most recent work is a sci-fi thriller on Netflix, “Atlas.”

Discover the latest news on the most famous Black actors

It’s not hard to find Black excellence in the history and future of television and cinema, from Black actors like the late Carl Weathers, whose decades-long careers made a lasting impact on Hollywood, to rising stars like Halle Bailey, who continue to prove there’s plenty of Black talent to go around. For more info on the hottest Black celebrities on the silver screen, check out our ongoingfilm andTV coverage.

25 star-studded Black actors you should know (2024)


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