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Five Easily Recognizable Black Character Actors

Updated on July 18, 2017
Hey, I know him... He's that guy who played in....
Hey, I know him... He's that guy who played in.... | Source

A character actor is an actor who routinely portrays unusual or eccentric roles.

They are often typecast into playing specific types of roles, regardless of how unusual or eccentric the part.

Some character actors cross over and become lead actors and actresses, but for the most part, they remain in the background.

It is a common notion that black actors are sorely overlooked in Hollywood, but some of the most enduring black actors are the character actors who are, in a way, meant to be "overlooked."

Even though they are not the stars of the show, they are still forever ingrained in the minds and hearts of film and television lovers everywhere.

These black actors may not have the "star power" of Denzel Washington, Will Smith, or Jamie Foxx, but they are almost as easily recognizable - even if many of us do not know their names.

Tiny Lister
Tiny Lister
Michael Beach
Michael Beach
Richard T. Jones
Richard T. Jones
Ving Rhames
Ving Rhames

Tiny Lister

If you have ever seen this black actor before, you know that his name, “Tiny” is a comedic play on words - and because he is anything but tiny, he is usually seen playing the big, bad, ogre or bodyguard role.

Most audiences know him as “Deebo” from Ice Cube’s Friday (1995) or as “XL” in The Player’s Club (1998), alongside Bernie Mac and Jamie Foxx.

Michael Beach

Michael Beach is known mostly for playing a jerk with a penchant for having a roving eye and a cheating heart, in films and television.

His most easily recognizable role is as “Jeanie Boulet’s” HIV carrying, cheating husband on ER (1994 - 2009) - remember him, the firefighter; he was the one who gave her HIV. You might also remember him as as “Teri’s” husband who cheats on her with her baby cousin in the film Soul Food (1997).

Richard T. Jones

Another “jerk” of sorts - Richard T. Jones often portrays either a standoffish type of dude, or a full-blown jerk.

Most of us became acquainted with Jones as the somewhat cold and uncaring “Bruce Van Exel” from TVs Judging Amy (1995 - 2005), or the total cad, “Mike”, from Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married (2007) and Why Did I Get Married Too (2010).

It's a shame, but no one really cared that his character was ill in Why Did I Get Married Too (2010).

Ving Rhames

Rough, tough, big and burly are the four best adjectives to describe black actor, Ving Rhames, and the type of roles he portrays.

He is pretty-much a beefcake sort of guy, if you have ever seen the full cut of his muscular physique in the film Baby Boy (2001), you will be well familiar with what I am describing.

Although he ventured far out of his usual element to play a rather convincing drag queen in Holiday Heart (2000), his comfort zone is in “men of action” roles alongside Tom Cruise in the Mission Impossible film franchise, and as the title character in the USA Network’s 2005 re-imagining of Kojak.

Scatman Crothers (May 23, 1910 – November 22, 1986)

In case you didn't know it, the black actor in the lead photo of this hub is Scatman Crothers.

Scatman Crothers had a distinctive, gravelly voice and a kind face. In his later years, Hollywood studios capitalized on those traits, so he usually played the kindly old man role, and he had a comedic side as well.

One standout role that always reminds me of him, is Halloran, the telepathic chef alongside Jack Nicholson and Shelly Duval in Stanley Kubrick’s, The Shining (1980).

Also, some folks will remember him in his role as the magical old man in film, Twilight Zone - The Movie (1983); Kick the Can is the name of the segment.

Before Scatman Crothers actually became an old man, he enjoyed a film and television career that spanned almost 40 years. In his early days, as there were not many other black actors, he was utilized wherever the role called for a black man.

Many people probably do not know his name, but if you have ever seen The Shining (1980), you will easily recognize his face.

Watch As Scatman Crothers Talks About A Phenomenon Known As "The Shining."

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    • justmesuzanne profile image


      8 years ago from Texas

      You know, it's funny that, as a movie buff, I really don't recognize these guys other than Scatman Crothers! LOL!

      One black character actor whom I do really love to see is Delroy Lindo ( He is truly fine actor and director. Voted up & interesting! :)

    • Robwrite profile image


      8 years ago from Oviedo, FL

      I've always liked Scatman Crothers. I remember seeing him first on "Chico and the Man".

      The first time I became aware of Tiny Lister was back in his wrestling days, when he was called 'Zeus the Human Wrecking Machine'. Because he was so big, he was built up as an intimidating opponent for Hulk Hogan. (He also appeared as Hogan's opponent in Hogan's first film "No Holds Barred".)

    • Rachelle Williams profile imageAUTHOR

      Rachelle Williams 

      8 years ago from Tempe, AZ

      OMG! Yes, Scatman was Hong Kong Phooey, wasn't he? He was a hugely successful voice actor because of his unique sound. Thanks for bringing back some an awesome childhood memory.

    • Alecia Murphy profile image

      Alecia Murphy 

      8 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      Interesting Hub! As soon as I saw Scatman Crothers, I remembered that he was the voice of Hong Kong Phooey. And you're right about Michael Beach, he's always playing the cheating jerk. I hope he plays a nice guy sometime soon.

    • Rachelle Williams profile imageAUTHOR

      Rachelle Williams 

      8 years ago from Tempe, AZ

      I feel you Arlene... Character actors are never out of work, and along with extras, they are the backbone of films. They aren't blockbuster stars, but they probably earn a regular and decent paycheck.

    • profile image

      Arlene V. Poma 

      8 years ago

      Voted up, interesting and AWESOME for some good points made here. I do recognize a couple of these actors. At the same time, as an actor, would I rather be an actor who finds steady work like Scatman as a character actor? Or would I want to full star power and risk it at times to someone younger? The public is so fickle, but men have a better chance of aging in Hollywood.


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