You gotta love a good show or movie with a strong black lead and story you can get lost in. Since we're no longer obligated to stay at home, you might find yourself ready to indulge in a little big-screen escapism---social distancing guidelines in place, of course. Even if you might be among those still putting a pause on sitting in a theater or joining a watch party, we've got something for you. (Hey, we don't blame you sis.)
Check out these 10 must-see films and shows featuring black leads, from horror, to comedy, to thrillers and beyond.
HORROR: Lovecraft Country
Jordan Peele (Get Out) is one of the executive producers of this HBO series set to debut in August. Based on a novel by Matt Ruff, it follows a man's journey through 1950s Jim Crow South in search of his missing father. If you're thinking, 'Well, where's the quirky, thought-provoking twist Peele is known for?' you can find it in the inclusion of forest monsters and strange zombie-like characters. The star-studded cast includes Courtney B. Vance (Cork'd, Law & Order: Criminal Intent) Jonathan Majors (White Boy Rick, The Last Black Man in San Francisco), Jurnee Smollett-Bell (Underground, True Blood) and Michael Kenneth Williams (The Wire, Empire).
DRAMA: Greenleaf, Season 5
We can't get enough of this Memphis megachurch drama, slated to see its final season on OWN this summer. The bishiop (Keith David) and his wife (the never-aging Lynn Whitfield) return with other mainstays Deborah Joy Winans, LeToya Luckett, Lamman Rucker, Merle Dandridge, and Kim Hawthorne. Oprah's also set to make an appearance, and there are reports of Patti LaBelle and Rick Fox showing up as well. (A spin-off is also reportedly in the works.) If you haven't caught up to all the drama, scandals, and secrets, all four previous seasons are available on Netflix, so go ahead and get your binge on if you haven't already. Be sure to catch the latest episodes of the final season airing on OWN Tuesdays at 9pm.
Janelle Monae. Janelle Monae. Janelle Monae. Need I write more? OK, well, if she didn't already wow you in Hidden Figures, at least intrigue in in Homecoming, or have you enjoying the luscious fabulousity of a being a black woman via her 2018 album Dirty Computer, I almost don't know what else to tell you. This psychological mystery, which will be available in theaters if all is back to normal by August 21, centers on an author who is transported into an alternate reality of Get Out vibes and Roots travesties. The thought of being placed back into slavery as a woke woman of the 2000s is already horrific within itself, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out.
An espionage agent who can bend time, wear the hell out of a tailored suit, survive beatings and near car crashes and doesn't have the name Bond? Yep, that's this film. (We love James Bond by the way, so that wasn't a dig.) John David Washington stars in this flick, set to hit theaters July 17. I'll go ahead and leave out the comparisons to the Original Mo' Betta Blues-giving, Equalizer-fighting, Malcolm X-swagged Zaddy out of this. (I mean, Denzel is his daddy, sis.)
NOLLYWOOD: Merry Men 2
If you like films like Ocean's 11, or Takers, you'll like this action-comedy available for streaming on Netflix. It showcases the glitz and glam of the Nigerian elite in an international adventure to fight corruption, steal from the rich, and give to the poor. Nigerian host and comedian Ayo Makun and musican-actor Falz star in this film along with other Nollywood vets including Ramsey Nouah, Ireti Doyle, and Jim Iyeke. This sequel takes things to the next level with a fierce female mercenary crew who give the four leading men a run for their money. This isn't your typical three-DVD soap opera drama you'd typically enjoy while getting those Marley twists redone at the braid shop, sis. (Though we love those, too.)
COMEDY: The High Note
Tracee Ellis Ross stars as a Hollywood superstar singer (a great nod to her real-life mom Diana Ross) and faces a career and life dilemma when her manager (played by Ice Cube) presents her with an interesting opportunity. If not for the fashion and endearing goofiness of Ross, you'll want to check it out just to see if the (musical) apple doesn't fall far from the entertainment royalty tree.
DRAMA: The Chi, Season 3
This Lena Waithe hit returns with the inclusion of new faces including RHOA's Kandi Burress, who plays the love interest of the show's gangsta lead Douda (played by Curtiss Cook). Actors from the previous season including Common (who plays Selma), Jacob Latimore (who plays Emmett), Yolanda Ross (who plays Jada), and Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine (who plays Ronnie). Waithe makes cameo appearances, along with Luke James and La La. It looks like there will be a quite a few plot twists but one is no surprise since Tiffany Boone (who played Jerrika) and Jason Mitchell (who played her chef bae Brandon) won't be returning this season. Tune in July 5 via Showtime.
DARK COMEDY: I May Destroy You
British actress Michaela Coel is back with an eyebrow-raising depiction of how a woman deals with the aftermath of being slipped a date-rape drug. The series explores sexual consent, contemporary dating, and reevaluating life choices as a woman in London, and if you liked her quirky Netflix series Chewing Gum, you might be able to give this HBO series a chance.
DRAMA: Miss Juneteenth
This film, which was a Sundance Film Festival selection and a hit at SXSW, centers around Turquoise Jones (played by Nicole Beharie of Sleepy Hollow fame), a single mother and former beauty queen. She goes on a journey in getting her rebellious daughter to follow in her footsteps and how she navigates love, parenthood, forgiveness and redemption in the madness. The film is debuted June 19, the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth, via multiple streaming platforms. You'll see a familiar face in Insecure's Kendrick Sampson (Issa's halfway-boo Nathan) who plays Jones' love in this film.
COMIC ACTION: Falcon & The Winter Soldier
Disney+ is debuting this series, starring Anthony Mackie as Marvel Comics' Sam Wilson AKA "Falcon". He's joined by actress Adepero Oduye (When They See Us) for this classic interpretation of the comic, and stars alongside Sebastian Stan (who plays Bucky Barnes AKA The Winter Soldier). Samuel L. Jackson is also rumored to return as Nick Fury in the six-part series set to debut in August. Each show will be released weekly versus all at once, so you'll get to hold on in suspense to see what will happen with the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
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Actress Marsai Martin recalls the valuable tips she received from mentors Tracee Ellis Ross and Jenifer Lewis during their collaboration on the acclaimed sitcom black-ish, and how their advice has profoundly transformed her life.
The 18-year-old has been involved in the entertainment industry for over a decade after starring in various commercials and television shows. Martin became a household name in 2014 when she portrayed the role of Diane Johnson in black-ish.
The series, which ended in 2022 after eight seasons, followed Andre Johnson (Anthony Anderson), a family man that struggles with his cultural identity as he and his wife, Bo Johnson (Tracee Ellis Ross), raise their children, Andre Jr. (Marcus Scribner), Zoey (Yara Shahidi), Jack (Miles Brown), and Diane Johnson in a predominantly white neighborhood.
Over the years, as Martin grew up on the set, Ross and Lewis showed the star the importance of self-care and not being afraid to express herself. Those tips were a massive inspiration behind why Martin partnered with Clinique, a skincare and cosmetic brand. In a recent interview with People magazine, the Little alum opened up about the advice she received from Ross and Lewis about beauty and the lesson she's learned.
Marsai On The Advice Her black-ish Co-Stars Gave Her
In the July discussion, Martin revealed that growing up on set with Ross and Lewis helped her realize why it was essential to care for oneself, internally and externally, and how it could contribute to one's confidence.
"I always followed their routines when it comes to their own beauty inside and out," she told the publication. "I was lucky enough to be around amazing and empowering women who cared about their skin and who exuded nothing but confidence."
Further into the interview, Martin also shared she thought it was hilarious to see Lewis' skincare regimen and Ross use items like "gua sha tools and infrared light" to maintain her youthful appearance because she didn't have to go the extremes to get ready. Still, Martin was inspired to create her own routine over time when she came of age.
"It was hilarious because I would see everybody have their makeup and skincare done, and I was the only one with Chapstick and eyebrow gel," she said. "Being able to watch them for so long, I already knew what I wanted when it was finally my time to be able to express myself creatively in that way. Every time I was in the hair and makeup trailer, they had some type of scientific tools."
Martin wrapped up her statement by saying that despite the differences in the women's skincare routine, one particular thing that Ross and Lewis taught her was "protecting" one's skin the "best way" possible.
Marsai On The Lessons She's Learned Over The Years
As the topic shifted to her partnership with Clinique and the lessons she had learned since developing her regimen, Martin disclosed that taking care of oneself is as fundamental as finding one's voice and having the confidence to live purposefully.
"Nothing is more of a priority than your voice and the way that you look at life, meaning nobody can take away your point of view," she explained. "Always remember what you want first — just like we talk about skincare and our beauty routines. Using our voices, speaking our minds and being able to find our confidence aligns with all of that."
Martin added that taking the time to get to know oneself and incorporating a self-care routine could help eliminate the pressures of social media because, with that knowledge, it is impossible to have a clouded judgment that could "blur" what an individual may genuinely want out of life.
"I think as young girls grow up in this world of social media and having so many other voices consuming our own mind to where it kind of blurs the lines of what we really want, it is truly important to remember what you want first and where you come from," she said.
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Feature image by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Strength Of A Woman Festival & Summit