Steve McQueen

Director Steve McQueen

The number of directors in Hollywood that are people of color is rather low. The number of award winning people of color? Even lower. But Steve McQueen has carved out a place for himself as a talented writer and director. McQueen, not to be confused with the actor of the same name, is responsible for three award winning feature films. One of those films, 12 Years A Slave, even earned McQueen a best picture award at the Oscars.

There is no doubt that McQueen is an extraordinary man. In 2014, he was named one of TIME’s 100 most influential people. The article was written by one of the stars of 12 Years A Slave, Lupita Nyong’o. In the article, Nyong’o calls McQueen a “visionary” and a “passionate storyteller.”McQueen is known for having good relationships with his actors. McQueen and Michael Fassbender have had a long standing partnership. Fassbender has appeared in all three of McQueen’s feature films. Of McQueen Fassbender says, “The fact of the matter is, [he] changed my life […] Steve and I have a really good understanding. We are on the same page, we see things in the same light and we want to take risks and stretch boundaries.”

Steve McQueen and the cast of 12 Years A Slave. Pictured from left to right: Lupita Nyong’o, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Steve McQueen, Sarah Paulson, & Michael Fassbender.

All of this from a man who says he was put into a class for “manual labour, more plumbers and builders, stuff like that.” At thirteen years old, McQueen attended a school that was institutionally racist, something he speaks about more comprehensively in this interview with The Guardian. “School was scary for me because no one cared, and I wasn’t good at it because no one cared. At 13 years old, you are marked, you are dead, that’s your future.” It’s an inspiring story for any one who feels hopeless or is in the same situation.

Anthony Mackie

Anthony Mackie

On April 4, 2014, Captain America: The Winter Soldier was released in the US. The film broke the record for best opening weekend in April, beating out popular movies like Fast Five and Fast and Furious (2009). Captain America is also part of the larger Marvel Universe, including films like Iron Man, Thor and The Avengers. With a prominent role in Captain America it’s pretty clear that Anthony Mackie’s career seems to have gotten its second wind.

Unlike some of the other younger faces, usually posted on this blog Mackie is no stranger to the industry. He’s been acting since 2002 and appeared in many popular films like 8 Mile and Million Dollar Baby. In Captain America Mackie plays Sam Wilson or The Falcon, a character who eventually ends up helping Captain America (Chris Evans).

Anthony Mackie as The Falcon

And there’s no doubt that Mackie is talented. He graduated from Julliard in 2001 with Lee Pace and has been in several Broadway and Off-Broadway plays. He’s been nominated several times for awards for his performances in films and plays. Macki also has several upcoming films with talented actors like Kate Winslet and Aaron Paul.

Besides being talented and a strong working actor, Mackie also supports diversity. “I feel like there should be a Latino superhero. Scarlett [Johansson] does great representation for all the other girls, but there should be a Wonder Woman movie. I don’t care if they make 20 bucks, if there’s a movie you’re gonna lose money on, make it Wonder Woman. You know what I mean, ’cause little girls deserve that.”

Anthony Mackie can be found on Twitter and Facebook.

Aziz Ansari

Aziz Ansari

Usually when I speak to people about Aziz Ansari I receive blank stares. If I mention Tom Haverford from NBC’s Parks and Recreation though, people know exactly who I’m talking about it. To me, this is problematic because Ansari is an incredibly talented actor and comedian. I first discovered Ansari through the 2009 film Funny People and later stumbled upon his stand-up comedy. Although Aziz has a steady role in Parks and Recreation, it would be nice to see him gain more exposure.

Before he became famous, Ansari was a frequent performer with the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. This venue for comedy shows also housed many famous alumni like Amy Poehler, Adam Pally and Donald Glover. At the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre Ansari performed both stand up and sketch comedy. Shortly after this, Ansari made his first big break in the 2007 MTV sketch comedy series, Human Giant.

Rob Huebel, Paul Christian Scheer & Aziz Ansari

As Ansari gained more recognition for his talent, he was able to carve out a very special place for himself. Ansari would be seen in a music video with Kanye West and Jay-Z. In late 2013, he was one of nine comedians who roasted James Franco. He would have guest roles in many popular television shows but still Ansari has not become a household name.

Although Ansari currently has no upcoming projects for 2014, he has been doing a lot of charity work. In 2012, he participated in an animated video for Oxfam America to encourage donations. More recently, he performed at a benefit for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings at the Wilbur Theater in Boston.

Aziz Ansari is on Tumblr, Twitter, Youtube and Facebook. He is also currently doing a stand-up tour which you can buy tickets for on the Ticketmaster website.

John Cho

John Cho

Sometimes we see actors who are right on the cusp of breaking out into Hollywood, but then they never do. This is often the case with actors who are minorities. Regardless of their talent and charm, some of them will never become household names. 31 year old actor John Cho nearly suffered this fate. He was one of the stars of the 2004 hit, Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle but for several years after bounced from obscure project to obscure project. Finally in 2013, John Cho seems to have bounced back, going from a relative unknown to once again being on the cusp of fame.

Cho landed a role in Star Trek: Into the Darkness, which made audiences start to take notice of him once again. His role as Sulu was once played by George Takei who has nothing but kind words for him. In an interview with Larry King, Takei says that Cho is “a good actor [who] has talent, […] good looks [and] energy.” Following Star Trek, Cho appeared in the Fox drama, Sleepy Hollow. While the show will return for a second season, executive producers are hesitant to say if Cho’s character, Andy Brooks will return.

John Cho and Karen Gillan filming Selfie.

John Cho also recently filmed the pilot for Selfie, a comedy with Doctor Who actress Karen Gillan. The show will air on ABC and revolves around social media and how some of us are better at dealing with it than others. Aside from this upcoming show, John Cho can be found on Twitter or in upcoming film, Zipper.

 

Lupita Nyong’o

Lupita Nyong’o

There are very few people who haven’t heard of Lupita Nyong’o by now. She seems to have taken the film industry by storm. As an incredibly articulate, talented, Yale alum, it’s hard to ignore Nyong’o. As a prominent woman of Kenyan descent, she serves as a great role model for many women who aren’t used to seeing representations of themselves in popular media. The media has lauded her impeccable sense of style and her brilliant performance in 12 Years a Slave.

The film catalogues the story of Solomon Northup (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man in the pre-Civil War United States. Northup is kidnapped and sold into slavery where he meets Patsey, who is played by Nyong’o. Patsey is a slave who has accrued the unwanted affection of her owner, Edwin Epps (played by Michael Fassbender). Nyong’o plays the character of Patsey wonderfully, with so much raw emotion at the right times. She is able to capture the complexities of Patsey with ease. From soft innocence to raging desperation, Nyong’o does it all.

 

Vanity Fair Image of Nyong’o as Patsey in 12 Years a Slave

After winning an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 12 Years a Slave, it seems that the sky is the limit for Nyong’o. Many opportunities should arise for an actress like her, but that is not always the case. After winning an Oscar for Best Actress in 2001, Halle Berry hasn’t done much award winning work. Other Oscar winners like Cuba Gooding Jr., Timothy Hutton and Catherine Zeta-Jones have yet to return to the Oscars after their first win.  Hopefully this “Oscar curse” will not befall Nyong’o.

Lupita Nyong’o can be found on Twitter and Instagram.