Black Female Lead

Nicole-Beharie-2

These three words are not often seen or heard, and what they symbolize is also very rare: Black Female Lead.

When you hear those words the first thing that might spring to mind is Olivia Pope played by Kerry Washington on the smash hit Scandal. You might be hard pressed to come up with any others. How about Joanna Locasto played by Meagan Good in the now cancelled show Deception? Or maybe in a pinch you could sort of add in Lacey Porter played by Kylie Bunbury in Twisted, co-lead with two other actors.

~*~

Today I give you Abbie Mills played by Nicole Beharie (pictured above) starring in the lead role in the new TV Series Sleepy Hollow. So far there are only two episodes, and I’ve watched them both. I am trying not to get too invested in this show, because if you’ve been paying any attention, in those rare instances that a Black woman is cast as the leading role in a television series, her position is a precarious one.

Take Deception for example. From the promotional ads to the writing for her character and more, Meagan Good was consistently being sidelined and basically treated like a bit player in the series she was supposed to be starring in. Despite that, she has Lead Role in a television series on her resume, and I wish her well in all her next endeavors.

I read somewhere that the three main characters in Twisted were supposed to be a triple-lead sort of thing. But the inevitable happened – pretty quickly – and everything ended up positioned to be from the point of view of the white female actor of that trio.

You might think that Kerry Washington was immune to such things, but alas, she too has suffered sidelining in promotional advertising for Scandal. In some cases, she isn’t even pictured. Or that thing that happens when you have a white male co-starring even though the Black woman is the lead…

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Here’s what I mean. It is already happening with Sleepy Hollow. Understand, the Abbie Mills character is the STAR of the show. She is the LEAD. But look at this poster right here:

Sleepy-Hollow-Season-1-Poster

(I really WISHamuthafukkaWOULD shove me behind a supporting actor all up in MY OWN DAMN SHOW)

If you want to see more of that feel free to Google the other shows I mentioned and take a look at their promotional ads and posters. Here’s another one where the star of the show isn’t even there:

Sleepy-Hollow-Season-1-Poster2

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Let’s talk fandom shall we? If you haven’t been living under a rock, or just simply DON’T KNOW, a lot of white people, fans of shows/movies go absolutely batshitCRAY when a POC shows up cast in what they think is a “white role”.  Lemme refresh your memory…

1. Guinevere cast with a Black woman on Merlin

2. A Black man cast as Heimdall in Thor

3. Rue as a little Black girl in The Hunger Games (tho that was faithful to how she was written in the books. Some people can’t READ I guess ROFL) – There was also objections to Lenny Kravitz as Cinna

4. The very idea that a Black guy might possibly be considered to maybe someday play Spiderman sent some into apoplectic fits.

5. The Uhura/Spock relationship in the Star Trek reboot.

A-Black-Girl-Is-Fucking-Spock

There’s others, but those are the ones that I can remember off the top of my head right now. I’ll briefly cover how some of the fandom commentary goes. Aside from nakedly racist ones, I mean. Here are some code words and phrases that always pop up in these cases:

“S/he is such a horrible actor”.

“There is no chemistry between (POC actor and white love interest)”.

“I hate (insert POC character name here)”.

“It’s not historically accurate”.

“She’s so ugly.” (used very often especially when the hot white male character(s) are written to be smitten by the ((equally hot btw)) Black female character).

And it’s not always white people that have issues. Take a gander at THIS RIGHT HERE. Yep.

He would rather have poor Ichabod stay faithful to his centuries dead wife – no matter that she pops up in ghost form in his dreams every now and then – then have any interest in the living, breathing, beautiful Black woman he spends all his time with.

Not to mention his “hate” includes Abbie’s sister Jenny Mills – played by Lyndie Greenwood –  who at this point was onscreen for barely 3 minutes at the tail end of episode two. So much malice for a character we’ve barely seen or even gotten to know yet!

***

I say go ahead and watch Sleepy Hollow, if you haven’t checked it out already. I think you can catch epis on hulu or search the net for other places to get caught up in time for the next installment. And hope and Pray with me that they don’t eff it up!

~*~

Just a blurb on Marvel’s Agents of the S.H.I.E.L.D. which also kicked off recently. I wasn’t going to watch it because Yet Again there were no Black women cast. There are a few WOC yes, including Ming-Na Wen, Ruth Negga and Chloe Bennet but no chocolate-hued women were cast.

There are of course, at least in the pilot I ended up watching, a few of Black males in supporting and what I read to be re-occurring roles, but again, Black women forgotten. It is a usual thing where a Black male is used as the default for the inclusion of Black people. I also notice that tends to happen a LOT in sci-fi.

I will probably continue watching, but chalk it up under my usual heading I employ in these instances: Watch Because I Love The Genre But Understand You Will Not Be Seeing Yourself On The Screen. I’ll take the hit and watch anyway because it is right up my alley. But still… Oh Well.

~*~

And lastly, I just wanted to give a shout out to Naomie Harris who was cast as Eve Moneypenny in the third installment of the James Bond reboot Skyfall.

Honey HUSH:

naomie-harris2 (2)

With her gorgeous chocolate skin tones, natural hair, style, grace, beauty and Secret Agent Toughness, I was in absolute heaven.

I will also note that of all the women Daniel Craig had been paired up with or interacted with so far – and that includes all three films – the chemistry between him and Naomie wins hands down. Which is interesting, because the nature of their relationship is a platonic one.

Back in the day we called that “Sparkage”. It is a thing that happens that can’t be faked, and it shows up on your screen unmistakably. Like that thing happening between Avan Jogia and Kylie Bunbury on Twisted. Or the extreme sparkage that threw down with John Cho and Gabrielle Union on FlashForward.

And speaking of John Cho… Oh YES he IS indeed cast in Sleepy Hollow. One more reason to go on and Get Ta Watchin!

Recommended: The Black Girls Club brought to you by the Amazing Ankhesen Mie.

_______________________________________________

Television and movies need more Black Female Leads. End of story. Television and movies need more Black Female Characters. Full Stop.
MovieMagic happens when you do it! So show creators, movie makers, casting people: Get With The Program Already!
Stuff is so much more AWESOME when Black women abound. Don’t be left in the dust as the Paradigm Shifts.
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About Awake BW

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9 Responses to Black Female Lead

  1. Naomie Harris looks beautiful. I’ve pretty much given up on tv its always the same. I just like black web series on youtube where I don’t have to worry about the black lead being overshadowed. the black series like awkward black girl and the unwritten rules the first season was amazing but after that they usually go down. with the sleepy hollow posters I would’ve thought the main character was that white male since he is in both posters and standing in front on both of the posters. I won’t watch not really my thing.

    • Awake BW says:

      Oh YES. When I need a break from the Blizzard Of Whiteness that is TV and Movies in America, I hop on my Black web series thing too.

      Yeah those posters are a trip aren’t they? Despite taking that step of casting a Black woman as the lead, they are still too afraid to promote the show that way. I have seen a few promo pictures where Abbie is in front of Ichabod, or they are side by side, but the main show promotion poster – the ones that are plastered all over billboards and in magazines and on the net and everywhere – is THAT one.

      • it does seem they are afraid to promote her being the lead when I saw the trailer I think I saw more of the white male than her in the trailer. It seems they have the same mentaility that they did years ago when they were afraid of losing money if they had a black lead so they’d put black ppl as the sidekicks. Black women are pretty much invisible in sci fi stuff and video games and other nerdy things lol.

  2. DesiBjorn says:

    I always enjoy your film & television critiques. And I especially like this ongoing look at Black femal representation in film & television. It is in the subtleties that prejudice perseveres.

    I had to laugh when you said: “I will probably continue watching, but chalk it up under my usual heading I employ in these instances: Watch Because I Love The Genre But Understand You Will Not Be Seeing Yourself On The Screen.”

    I used this same type of philosophy when I would read sci-fi and fantasy books because often there was no Black representation in the characters.

    • Awake BW says:

      Thanks :)
      And yeah, that’s part the suit of armor I speak about on my Why I Love Scandal page. What POC don when we want to partake of media in this United States of America.

  3. Gabby says:

    Hi, I understand what you are saying, but Nicole Beharie is second-billed. Tom Mison is first billed in SLEEPY HOLLOW’s credits like how Kerry Washington and Meagan Good are first-billed on their shows.
    Nonetheless, Nicole deserves to be included in all SLEEPY HOLLOW promotional materials.

    • Awake BW says:

      When I did my initial research, my results were Nicole Beharie as first billed, which is why I was so understandably burnt up.
      I’ve had misinformation pop up on internet searches before – so thanks for the head’s up! That promo poster makes more sense now.
      But yeah, the others… notsomuch.

  4. 2sistas says:

    I am so happy about Lyndie Greenwood and Nicole Beharie, I hope these sista’s can maintain and not fall into the Hollywood actresses notorious reputation.

  5. Awake BW says:

    Just found this out and thought I’d mention it. On Sleepy Hollow both Beharie and Mison are CO-LEADS (tho I won’t edit my initial post #sorrynotsorry), but as stated before, Beharie has second billing. I learned during my sojourn in Hollywood that billing is sorted out – if addressed at all – in your initial contract. Just something to think about for aspiring actors. You may or may not get what you ask for from the network or studio – who knows what happened individually with Nicole and Tom – but you shouldn’t forget to add that in when making your contract deals.

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