You know, one of the things in Hollywood is, there are only a few of us black actors that happen to be working. And nothing makes me happier than to be able to take another black actor's job.
As always with Chappelle's Show, while this was meant to be funny and set up the epic six-minute skit between Wayne and Dave, there was a sizable amount of truth to the statement. And since this skit aired in 2004, it began an Internet tradition that I've kept up for over eight years:
Every few months, I Google Image search "black actors," just to see what's going on.
For years, the first page of hits would be approximately one-third Denzel photos, a few Samuel L., Morgan Freeman, and Will Smith pictures, and the occasional Whitaker, Fishburne, Murphy, and (of late) Foxx sprinkled in. While this seems like a crude (and borderline disrespectful) way to figure out who are the prominent black actors in America, the dearth of names, unfortunately, has continued to be a pretty accurate accounting of the "mainstream" black male actors in America. You know: Denzel, and then everyone else.
This morning seemed like a fitting time to do another "black actors" search because of the recent news that Anthony Mackie is in talks to play the superhero Falcon in the Captain America sequel. Mackie has been on my radar for the past few years, because he's quietly becoming that black actor that seems to keep getting the call when they need, you know, a black actor in a movie. Since 2009's The Hurt Locker, his star has been on the rise, slowly becoming a consistent third-through-fifth-billed presence on major motion pictures such as Man on a Ledge, Real Steel, The Adjustment Bureau, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, the upcoming Brolin/Gosling/Stone/Penn crime film Gangster Squad, and the Michael Bay–directed, Mark Wahlberg/The Rock–starring Pain and Gain. Should he take the Falcon role, maybe he'll move into more of a headliner position and get off the bubble of "most famous actor in the supporting cast."
But where does he stand among black actors? This question brings us back to the aforementioned scientific measurement stick of blactor influence known as Google Images. The results were shocking, to say the least:
One Image: Taraji P. Henson, Mekhi Phifer, Eddie Murphy, Clint Dyer, Jason George, Lincoln Perry, Jesse Williams, Laurence Fishburne, Nate Parker, Columbus Short, Don Cheadle, Will Smith, Spike Lee, Beyoncé Knowles.
Two Images: Denzel Washington, Forest Whitaker, Samuel L. Jackson, Derek Luke.
Three Images: n/a
FOUR IMAGES: ANTHONY MACKIE
Wow. Just wow. Without hesitation, I'm saying Anthony Mackie is the most relevant black actor in Hollywood and it's about time we start treating him as such. Samuel L., I know you'll tell anyone within earshot that you're the highest-grossing actor in movie history; Will, you and your family are an institution; Denzel, trust me, you're still the king; and Morgan, I respect the fact that Christopher Nolan thaws you out of your cryogenically frozen chamber for the Batman movies, but you've all had your opportunity to monopolize the roles designated for your race and gender. It's now Anthony's turn. Congrats on officially arriving, Mr. Mackie. Google Images and I salute you.