Breaking down the 2016 film/TV projects for black actors

In the midst of the OscarsSoWhite 2016 edition discussion, a common sentiment from most black actors and filmmakers was not so much the lack of recognition, but the need for greater opportunities in front of and behind the camera.

Judging by the announced lineup for films and TV so far for 2016, there’s still room for improvement with opportunities for award recognition. A lot of stars find regular work in action and comedies, but those rarely attract attention come award season.

As I tend to do when I’m curious, I decided to take a closer look and examine the on-camera roles for a good portion of black actors in Hollywood and what projects they’ll be involved in for 2016. The list isn’t fully comprehensive — for the most part, I looked at performers involved in more than one film or TV series — but it offers a good indication on the current and future generation stars.

Next year I’ll break this down more scientifically and include other minorities — for Asians and Latinos, the numbers are even less encouraging. At a glance, there’s less than five obvious potential Oscar contenders, but that could change as the year plays out. For now, here’s the list:

Aja Naomi KingAja Naomi King

The How to Get Away With Murder star is poised for a breakout 2016. Beyond her role on the ABC show, she’s getting a lot of attention for her role in The Birth of a Nation, which won’t be the last time that film is mentioned on this list.

alexandra-shippAlexandra Shipp

Hot off her role in Straight Outta Compton (Blu-ray + DVD + DIGITAL HD with Ultraviolet), Shipp gets a more prominent role in a blockbuster as she’ll be starring as Storm in the anticipated X-Men: Apocalypse (May 27) and the comedy Dude, about a group of girls adjusting to life post high school.

Triple Nine - Anthony Mackie and Casey AffleckAnthony Mackie

With his stock trending upwards thanks to some smart and diverse roles, Mackie plays a pivotal role in one of the year’s most anticipated films Captain America: Civil War (May 6) and the action drama Triple 9 (Feb. 26), which has an embarrassment of riches with its all-star cast including Kate Winslet, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Woody Harrelson, Norman Reedus and Gal Gadot.

Aunjanue Ellis

Beyond a steady, regular gig on ABC’s new hit drama Quantico, the Undercover Brother star will also be appearing in The Birth of a Nation. If any film has the opportunity to see multiple nominations and possible wins for black actors/filmmakers it’s the Nat Turner drama.

cassie-ventura-at-2015-bet-awardsCassie Ventura

The R&B singer is looking to conquer Hollywood this year as she’s starring in two films. First in the promising romance comedy drama The Perfect Match (March 11) and Director Bille Woodruff’s Honey 3.

Evans, Boseman and DowneyChadwick Boseman

Following breakout roles in Get On Up and 42, Boseman begins his ascension to top-level superstar thanks to his highly anticipated debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Black Panther in Captain America: Civil War (May 6), Marshall about the early life of Thurgood Marshall, the thriller Message from the King and his hopefully quick cameo in the terrible-looking Gods of Egypt (Feb. 26).

Chiwetel Ejiofor

The typically busy star has a more relaxed schedule this year appearing in just two films, but they’ll no doubt be worth the wait. First up is Triple 9 (Feb. 26) and next is the next cog in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as he’ll be playing the villain Baron Mordo in Doctor Strange (Nov. 4).


The rapper turned actor has one of his busiest years in front of the camera in 2016. He’ll be facing off with Keanu Reeves in John Wick 2, joining the fun in Barbershop: The Next Cut (April 15), starring in RZA’s hip hop drama Coco, co-starring in Leavey and appearing as The Tattooed Man in Suicide Squad (Aug. 5)

dana-gourrierDana Gourrier

Being prominently featured in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained [Blu-ray]and The Hateful Eight has helped Gourrier become a rising star. She’s making sure to stay on the rise as she’ll be in Same Kind of Different as Me (April 29), Kidnap (May 13), Midnight Special (March 18) while continuing to appear on TV show Togetherness.

Franz Drameh

After supporting gigs in Edge of Tomorrow and The Flash in 2015, Drameh gets a bigger spotlight as a regular cast member on the newest CW superhero spin-off DC’s Legends of Tomorrow and will also be appearing alongside Idris Elba and Gemma Arterton in A Hundred Streets.

gabrielle-union-i2015Gabrielle Union

It’s another busy year for the hard-working actress. She’ll be appearing in The Birth of a Nation, the thriller Sleepless Night with Jamie Foxx and the holiday film A Meyers Christmas (Nov. 11) alongside Danny Glover, Omar Epps, Nicole Ari Parker, Kimberly Elise and Romany Malco in addition to starring in her BET show Being Mary Jane.

gugu-mbatha-rawGugu Mbatha-Raw

The Beyond the Lights [Blu-ray] star had a stellar 2015 and looks to build on that with her role in Free State of Jones (May 13) with Matthew McConaughey in addition to The Whole Truth and Miss Sloan.

Halle Berry

This marks a bit of a down year for the Best Actress Oscar winner. With Extant cancelled, her only onscreen appearance is the starring role in Kidnap (May 13) about a mother trying to find her kidnapped son.

Ice Cube

Ride Along 2 isn’t Cube’s only big screen appearance this year. He’ll be reprising his lead role in Barbershop: The Next Cut (April 15) and comedy fistfight with Christina Hendrick and JoAnna Garcia Swisher.

idris elbaIdris Elba

The incomparable Elba may still be the next Bond in waiting, but he’s definitely not lacking for work in 2016. He’s doing voice work in three films — Zootopia (March 4), Finding Dory (June 17) and Jungle Book (April 15) — appearing in copious amounts of makeup in Star Trek Beyond (July 22) and will actually show off his debonair looks in A Hundred Streets and Bastille Day (July 13).

kali-hawkKali Hawk

After co-starring in the coldly-received Fifty Shades of Black, Hawk’s 2016 can only look up as she’s co-starring in romantic comedies The Bounce Back (Feb. 26) and The Perfect Match (March 11), which looks like it could be this year’s version of Think Like a Man.

Keiynan Lonsdale

Lonsdale is back for The Divergent Series: Allegiant (March 18), but he’s getting a major role as a regular cast member on the popular Flash TV series as Wally West. Additionally, he starred in The Finest Hours with Chris Pine and Casey Affleck, which is currently in theaters.

Kevin Hart

One of the hardest working entertainers in show business, Hart benefits from being the hot comic in Hollywood right now. In addition to Ride Along 2, Hart will be co-starring alongside Dwayne Johnson in Central Intelligence (June 17), lending his voice to The Secret Life of Pets (July 8) as well as a new stand-up film Kevin Hart: What Now? (Oct. 14) from his performance at Philadelphia’s outdoor venue, Lincoln Financial Field.

Laurence Fishburne

One of the most consistent performers of his generation won’t have a slow 2016. Fishburne will play an assassin in John Wick 2, star as Nelson Mandela in the TV mini-series Madiba and Alex Haley in the Roots mini-series, continue his role as Pops on Black-ish and star in Passengers, but most eyeballs will be on him as he reprises his role as Perry White in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. (March 25)

ghostbusters 2016 - leslie jones as patty tolanLeslie Jones

With a starring role in the Ghostbusters reboot (July 15), Jones’ 2016 is already poised to be major, but she’s also appearing in comedy heist Masterminds (Sept. 30), the comedy drama We Are Family (Oct. 24) and lending her voice to the animated feature Sing (Dec. 21).

Mike Colter

With his winning performance in Jessica Jones, Colter gets the spotlight himself as he stars in the Netflix series Luke Cage based on the Marvel Comics character.

Mike Epps

Epps is in an intriguing time period of his career as he’s starting to take on more serious roles. Sure, his 2016 has the usual comedy films you’d expect like Fifty Shades of Black, the TV series adaptation of Uncle Buck, but he’s also in the crime drama Term Life (March 1) with Vince Vaughn, Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard and the Nina Simone biopic Nina where he’ll be playing Richard Pryor. Epps is already familiar with performing as the iconic comedian as he’ll be starring in the Lee Daniels’ directed Richard Pryor: Is It Something I Said?, which may be released later this year.

morris chestnutMorris Chestnut

Starring in his FOX series Rosewood is keeping him occupied, but Chestnut also appears in When the Bough Breaks (Sept. 16) with Regina Hall.

Morgan Freeman

Another year, another stacked lineup for Morgan Freeman, who’s got four films lined up this year. The most high profile are likely London Has Fallen (March 4) and Now You See Me 2 (June 10). Additionally, Freeman will be appearing in Ben-Hur (Aug. 12) and Going in Style (May 6) alongside frequent co-star Michael Caine and Christopher Lloyd, and  The Story of God TV mini-series.

nate parker birth of a nationNate Parker

Parker is a rising star having appeared in films like Non-Stop opposite Liam Neeson, The Great Debaters with Denzel Washington and Beyond the Lights with Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Now, he’s on the cusp on super stardom following the Sundance buzz of The Birth of a Nation, the film he directed, wrote and starred in that details Nat Turner’s historic liberation movement in 1831.

nia longThis looks to be one of the major contenders for possible award consideration or one of the films folks would point to if OscarsSoWhite is trending in 2017.

Nia Long

Parker SawyersNo stranger to regular work, Long will be co-starring with Mike Epps in the Uncle Buck series as well as appearing in Keanu (April 29) with Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key.

Parker Sawyers

No up and comer has a busier 2016 slate than Sawyers. His 2016 kicks off with Southside With You where he plays future President Barack Obama, then starring in the horror thriller Don’t Hang Up (Dec. 1), the sci-fi thriller Spectral (Aug. 12) also starring Cory Hardrict and Arrow star Jimmy Akingbola, the biopic Snowden (May 13), Leavey alongside Common and the war drama Sand Castle with Henry Cavill and Nicholas Hoult.

Paula Pattonpaula patton

Patton has another busy year starting off with a role in Warcraft (June 10), then working alongside Adam Sandler in the comedy The Do Over and The Perfect Match (March 11)

regina hallRegina Hall

The versatile star is reportedly working on The Best Man Wedding, which as of yet doesn’t have a release date. More firmed up though is her appearance in Barbershop: The Next Cut (April 15) and When the Bough Breaks (Sept. 16).

Samuel L. Jackson

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that Jackson has another stacked schedule. Despite not being slated to appear in Captain America: Civil War, he will be starring in Legend of Tarzan (July 1), Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Dec. 25), the sci-fi thriller Cell and The Hitman’s Bodyguard with Ryan Reynolds and Gary Oldman.

sanaa lathanSanaa Lathan

While The Best Man Wedding’s status for a 2016 release is in the air, Lathan will be joining the cast of Now You See Me 2 (June 10) and this year’s big sci-fi space film Ad Inexplorata about a space mission to Mars.

Stephan James

The Selma (BD) [Blu-ray] star heads to the forefront as he’ll be playing Jessie Owens in the biopic Race (Feb. 19). He doesn’t have anything else lined up beyond an appearance in the TV movie Unveiled so hopefully Race opens up more opportunities for him going forward.

Tika-SumpterTika Sumpter

With her lighthearted fare out the way with her appearance in Ride Along 2, Sumpter is now earning raves for her performance as Michelle Obama in Southside With You, which details the first date of the future President and First Lady.

Will Smith

The Concussion star has an active year with the drama The American Can about a Marine who helps his neighbors in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Collateral Beauty with Rachel McAdams and Edward Norton and Suicide Squad (Aug. 5)

yaya-dacostaYa Ya DaCosta

While continuing her role on Chicago Med, DaCosta will be appearing in The Nice Guys (May 20) with Ryan Gosling, Kim Basinger and Russell Crowe about a private eye investigating the death of a porn star.

Zoe Kravitz

The busy actress continues her work in the Divergent series with The Divergent Series: Allegiant (March 18), but also stars in the crime thriller Vincent-N-Roxxy alongside Emile Hirsch as well as Adam Green’s Aladdin, a modern adaptation of the Arabian Nights story.

zoe saldana oscarsZoe Saldana

For a third time, Saldana suits up as Lt. Uhura for Star Trek Beyond (July 22) in addition to playing the lead in the Nina Simone biopic Nina.