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Adequate representation of black people and culture in TV and film is a well-chronicled fight in America but most people forget why. If there’s one thing the world can stop producing right this second and still get along fine, it’s actors. So this isn’t as much about numbers as it is about impact.

It’s vital that black people are well represented in film because of the awesome power of moving pictures. The normal human brain is wired to believe what you see, above all else. For centuries, people could reliably believe what was before their eyes i.e. if you see a flying man, then men must be able to fly. But that all changed when movies were invented.

Now you’re forced to cope with images, many more vivid than actual memories, that are merely figments of a producer’s imagination. On a cognitive level, you know that you’re watching TV, and that it is not reality. But on a deeper, sensory level, your brain is processing those images as knowledge and experience, just like always.

Enter millions of Americans watching black people robbing, killing, rapping or serving on TV, all day, every day. Add that to the fact that most of them are white and it’s obvious these TV/Film watchers are going to have fcuked up knowledge and experience of black people.

Why go into all this to bring you a list of Underrated Hollywood Actors?

(A) Reminders are always helpful and (B) when minorities are lumped into a category of an industry already divided by genres and generic award systems, they end up fighting for what’s left. Too often black actors are seen as a homogeneous group rather than unique and talented professionals.

These next few actors are underrated because they forced America to cope with marvelously diverse images of black people. And that is what adequate representation in Hollywood is all about. First up:

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