Iconic Ladies: Black Actresses in Legendary Leading Roles on TV

Star Trek: Discovery is different from any other TV series in this iconic and well-known universe for having a very diverse “crew” – it features a black actress, Sonequa Martin-Green, in its lead role, something no other has done before it. Of course, there was no shortage of women of all races in the long history of Star Trek but few of them were leading. It’s a lot like poker games at super selected Canadian casino Red Flush: they are there, they are great, but they are somehow always overshadowed by slot machines. With most TV shows being led by white actors and actresses, it is sometimes hard to find women of color in iconic leading roles in series. We still managed to pinpoint a few – here they are.

Pearl Mackie

Pearl Mackie is a relative newcomer to the world of TV shows. She had a few minor roles in her past before making her breakthrough appearance on the BBC’s popular science fiction TV series “Doctor Who” next to the title character Peter Capaldi. Her appearance was a first – although she wasn’t the first black companion to join the Doctor on his journeys through space and time (there was Martha Jones played by Freema Agyeman and Mickey Smith played by Noel Clarke) she was the first one not to consider the Doctor a love interest… because she was openly gay, for the first time in the series’ history.

Freema Agyeman

Speaking of Doctor Who, let’s not forget about English actress Freema Agyeman who has served as a companion – and a returning character – next to Doctor Who actor David Tennant in 2008. She had a more extensive TV acting experience when joining the show, and she kept returning to the screen afterward in roles like that of Larissa Loughlin in “The Carrie Diaries”, Shelly Periwinkle in “Old Jack’s Boat”, and Amanita Caplan in J. Michael Straczynski’s “Sense8”.

Kerry Washington

Kerry Washington has a long and fruitful career behind her, with two Golden Globe, three Primetime Emmy, and five BET Awards nominations under her belt. She has been cast for a variety of roles in movies like “Django Unchained”, “Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer”, and many others before she found her place as Olivia Pope, the lead character of the ABC series “Scandal”. In it, she plays a “political fixer”, with her character being partially based on the events from the life and career of George H.W. Bush administration press aide Judy Smith (who also happened to be a co-executive producer on the show).

Do you have other examples to share? Please do so in the comments.