Don’t Sleep On ‘Em: 10 Underrated Black Actors Who Deserve More Shine

June 15, 2012 ‐ By Kimberly Shorter



They are some of Hollywood’s best kept secrets. These talented brothers and sisters can hold their own on the screen alongside the industry’s heavyweights and consistently give great performances. Yet when the awards seasons roll around, their names are barely, albeit, rarely mentioned. Here is our list of actors who we think are truly underrated, and not just the usual suspects. Do you agree?


Aunjanue Ellis has captivated audiences with her riveting performances in movies Ray, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 and most recently in her role as Yule Mae in the box office hit The Help. She has also earned critical acclaim for her TV work on True Blood, Missing and The Mentalist. With her acting chops, it’s hard to believe she has yet to land a lead role on TV or on the silver screen. The Brown University graduate was recently invited to teach entertainment industry courses as an Artist-In-Residence at Hampton University.

MadameNoire Video

Comment Disclaimer: Comments that contain profane or derogatory language, video links or exceed 200 words will require approval by a moderator before appearing in the comment section. XOXO-MN
  • Im_Shailyn


  • Quicknote

    Love Nate Parker! But I feel he has a particular focus on using his acting chops to enlighten our people (African Americans) about our history, so the awards and the limelight are not too much of a focus, but i’m sure he’s not opposed to receiving either of the two *wink wink*

  • Vio12

    Definitely agree with all the choices…..great list!!! But come on, you can’t forget about Jurnee Smollett and Lynn Whitfield…..from Eve’s Bayou to now, neither one of them has put in a bad performance!!! Shoot, while we’re at on the EB train, Debbi Morgan is the bomb, too!!! And Anika Noni Rose (My girl!)

    Guywise, I say Giancarlo Esposito (School Daze/Breaking Bad), Eamonn Walker (Howlin’ Wolf from Cadillac Records), Jesse L. Martin (Law & Order), and Marlon Wayans (Have you seen Reqiuem for a Dream?) B)

  • Love_Sexy

    I have always been a big fan of Jeffery Wright and thought he never get the recognition he deserve…..I am still rooting for him that his day will come.

  • Rayven

    Bookine Woodbine should be on this list, he is a outstanding actor, the issue with him is he got type cast in the 1990’s always playing the thug…but the brotha sure can act!!

  • Rayven

    Jeffery Wright is just pure awesome he actually becomes his character he can play anybody and his performance as MLK was emmy worthy!

    • Anonymous

      I agree. Jeffery, is one of the best actors in Hollywood, very underrated. Sophie Okonedo is also good, better than Halle Berry.

  • kay

    Rockman Dunbar was on Sons of Anarchy last season and

    Harold Perrineau is suppose to be on SOA this season.

  • LiiSH

    Jeffery Wright is so good sometimes I have a hard time realizing it is him… Lol it took me a hot minute to realize he played both Basquiat and Muddy Waters.

    • Rayven

      He also was Martin Luther King in Boycott, great actor!

    • Guest

      That’s the mark of a great actor — you can never recognize them. That’s how you know they’re doing their job appropriately and successfully.

  • How can you forget Mr. Malco’s acting in the VH1 Hammer Movie

  • Poochie

    What about Leonard Roberts? From Love Jones to Drumline to Heroes he’s turned in some great performances, yet has remained under the radar….

  • queenpen

    Yall got the pic wrong on rock dun bar because pooch hall plays pookie on the game

    • Set U. Straight

      No, Pooch is Derwin…

  • Lena

    Rockman Dunbar is on the game as tasha macks love interest pookie.

    • MNEditor2

      Thanks for mentioning that!