Embracing Their Types! Actors Who Play The Same Role Over & Over Again

January 21, 2012  |  
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We know quality roles are hard to come by in Hollywood. We do, we really do. For black actors, you can multiply that reality times 100. So we don’t blame the actors that made our list. They choose to hone their craft, albeit under the limited scope of their typecasted roles. Hey, some actors are so grateful for the hefty paydays that they won’t fight too hard to go outside their comfort zone. In good fun, we’ve highlighted the actors who stay faithful to their types but who we hope to see in other roles (much bigger ones) before the year is over.

We love Jenifer Lewis but she’s played the feisty black mama 10 too many times. She’s so good at being comedic and sassy that producers obviously can’t get enough of her and choose to risk using an actress whose played the same role in so many other black films and television shows. I remember her best as Toni’s mom on Girlfriends and Tina Turner’s mother on What’s Love Got To Do With It. How could she tell on Tina to Ike like that!?

Keith David

We wonder if Keith David gets tired of always playing the shady character. From playing the cold-hearted loan shark in Barbershop to playing the primary villain on The Princess & The Frog (crazy Dr. Facilier), Davis is straight typecasted.  Although he does just as many movies as Samuel L. Jackson each year, the veteran actor hasn’t received as many opportunities to flex his acting skills in bigger roles (as a leading man) for a large audience.

Wood Harris

Although Harris is a graduate of the NYU graduate acting program at the Tisch School of the Arts, somehow he’s gotten funneled into the acting pipeline that so many amateur black actors have worked. His photo on IMDB even shows a picture of Harris aiming a gun. Needless to say, we often see Harris in the role of criminal.  We loved him as Avon Barksdale on The Wire but want him to play more than a drug dealer or “ex-banger” (as seen on Southland).

Clifton Powell

Whose afraid of the big bad wolf? Now, whose afraid of Clifton Powell? The longtime actor is excellent at his job because when he walks onto a set for a scene in a film, it has the effect of mood music – the mood being one of menace.  From Dead Presidents to Woman Thou Art Loosed, Powell is expert at playing dark, creepy characters that linger with us for some time. And crazy ones that we can’t forget too (Remember Pinky from the Friday movies?).

Gabrielle Union

Bless her heart, Union ends up playing many of the same roles because she’s good at playing the typical, everyday, pretty, professional Black girl. Although she’s tried to reach for more dramatic roles in films like Cadillac Records, we think Union should embrace her limited scope and play her career like Jennifer Aniston (aside from Horrible Bosses) and focus on comedies.

Donald Faison

It all began with Clueless. Then it was a done deal for Faison who has since been typecasted as the token black guy/black best friend. He seems to love it however, and we love him too. I mean, his character of Turk on Scrubs made that show! But still…expand my man, expand…

Paula Jai Parker

P stands for Paula. P also stands for the promiscuous characters that Paula has a thing for playing. She had an unforgettable role as a feisty and arrogant prostitute in Hustle & Flow, who quarreled with the man in her life (her pimp that is), DJay. That casting might’ve been inspired by her role in 1997’s Sprung, in which she played Adina: the easy, gold-digging, and sabotaging best friend. The list of questionably promiscuous characters goes on, but she’s already tried to expand her portfolio. She was the mother on The Proud Family!


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  • Chawntau

    No John Witherspoon? I love him, but he is always the same character everytime I see him LOL…

  • just me

    Wood Harris was also in Remember the Titans.

  • just me

    Gabrielle Union definitely belongs on this list; however, it isn’t for playing pretty, professional black girl. It for always playing black girl with a huge chip on her shoulder.

  • RenJennM

    I hate this article. Hate it, hate it, hate it. One second, you are all telling Black actors to be grateful for even getting roles (if you think I’m exaggerating, read some of the comments under that Taraji P. Henson article), the next second, you’re saying they’re always typecast. Maybe I’m a bit biased to this subject because I am a Film student myself, but I still think it’s a stupid topic. 

    Do actors get typecast? Of course. Do Black actors get typecast? Even more so! But don’t make it seem as if it is COMPLETELY the actors’ fault. At the end of the day, it comes down to many things: what scripts and roles are being forwarded to certain actors, who/what the directors and producers want, and the simple fact that actors have to make a steady income. 

    Almost all actors try or make a real effort to expand their resume. I haven’t run into not ONE aspiring actor who has said: “I only want to play ____ type of roles!” Everyone wants to dabble in everything at least once. But when you actually get in the business, and you need to work, you end up finding your niche so you can make money. 

    There’s also a such thing as CHARACTER ACTORS. Those are actors who play a similar type of character or many specific character types. They are rarely the star, but they always work, and a lot of them truly enjoy what they do. 

    I swear… ya’ll think just because you watch a lot of movies and reality shows that you actually know about the industry. Sit down.

  • Candacey Doris

    Wood Harris has been trying to expand. He was one of the stars of ‘The Heart Specialist’ and he was really good. Try looking at some of these stars’ low budget work. You would be surprised at some of the roles they have done.

  • Lola21

     Thank god i thought i was the only one who thought gabrielle union was always playn the role in every movie she need to step out of her comfort zone damn

  • Guest

    Samuel Jackson gets many films but he’s type cast as an angry bird.

    • Love_Sexy

      Forgot about him too.

  • Guest

    Hollywood views blacks as a monolith though the opposite couldn’t be more true. Casting directors are not familiar with “our” skill sets. They think I need a prostitute, pimp, baby mamma, oh you fit the bill. You don’t look as ghetto as the others you can “play” the boss even though we know the Cosbies don’t exist in real life.

  • guest510

    what about Megan Good?

    • Love_Sexy

      Most definitely………I forgot about her.

  • Love_Sexy

    Did not go through the list but I think Gabrielle Union, Nia Long, Taraji Henson, Jenifer Lewis etc….The list goes on.

    • crys

      I disagree about Taraji. She has shown some versitility in “The Family That Prays” & don’t forget “Benjamin Button.”

      • Love_Sexy

        To be fair I did not see Taraji in “Benjamin Button: therefore next time its on I will check it out.

  • Melissa

    I love Clifton Powell!!

  • Now y’all are just WRONG for that picture of Paula!

  • NSimonefan

    Keith Davis’ face looks like someone who wouldn’t hesitate to cuss someone out anytime someone made him mad, lol.  Paula Parker is starting to look like those characters she is playing; promiscous and crackish.  Jenifer Lewis is the epitome of the one-dimensional, typecast actress, LOL.

  • You should also add that woman Tasha Smith, every role she has is loud and obnoxious 

    • Love_Sexy

      Though I like Tasha Smith unfortunately you are right…….She could try to venture out and try to do so much more.

  • Txmsladytx

    I thought her name was Jennifer Lewis not Williams.