A well-written, well-rendered character who is genuine and interesting has viewers not only coming back, but transcending their shows and representing hope and inspiration for viewers who identify with them. Or, more so, who can identify with them. Too often in mainstream TV, if there happens to be a person of color, they are often stereotypes, caricatures, and exist only to be a punchline. However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Emerging, are POC actors who are being cast for their talent, not to fill a stereotype. With some minor re-writes, these characters could even be played by someone of any background. Here are 6 women of color leads who are rocking it on the screens.
Olivia Pope – Scandal, ABC
Olivia Pope has become an icon. On Scandal, Pope is loosely based on real former U.S. Assistant Attorney and deputy press secretary, Judy Smith. Kerry Washington plays Pope in Shonda Rhimes’ political melodrama. She is a president’s aide, turned, mistress, turned political “fixer” who seems to have all the answers. Though Washington’s character has had a few lines concerning the existential awareness of her intersectional struggle, (The quote from her father “you have to be twice as good to get half of what they have”) her race is never used to drive the story.
Mindy Lahiri – The Mindy Project, Fox
Image Via Flickr Creative Commons
Love her or hate her in the American version of The Office, Kelly Kapoor, Mindy Kaling’s ditzy mean girl was funny. Now, starring in The Mindy Project, as Dr. Mindy Lahiri, a show not only created by her, with most written by her, but she is one of the showrunners as well. The Mindy Project is kitsch, aware of itself, and genuinely funny. Though Kaling is the first Indian leading lady in primetime, she doesn’t perpetually remark on her race or use it a plot device. She identifies with it, is proud, but unlike her Kapoor character in The Office, her “Indian-ness” isn’t a punchline. She is a fully realized character.
Michonne – The Walking Dead, AMC
The Walking Dead, though it has a main character, is ensemble casting at its finest. We follow Rick Grimes’ (Andrew Lincoln) story, who is backed by a zombie-killing squad that wouldn’t be as epic without Daryl (Norman Reedus), Glenn (Steven Yeun), and especially Michonne (Danai Gurira). Michonne is a bad ass. She makes her first appearance the in the series decapitating a zombie while toting her tamed walkers as protection. When race is not a driving theme in a series, the tendency in Hollywood is not to cast people of color. The fact that all of the POC in the Walking Dead world are visible, not a caricature or added for a bit of tokenism are what make Michonne’s character, even more, important. She’s just another person trying to survive the zombie apocalypse.
Gloria Delgado-Pritchett – Modern Family, ABC
Sofia Vergara’s Gloria on Modern Family is the main character of the show, playing a trophy wife to a much older man, Jay, (Ed, O’Neill). Though many of the gags and storylines have Gloria at the butt of the jokes, she is still written with a complexity that embarrasses any viewer who thinks they have figured her out.
Zoe Washburne – Firefly, Fox
The short-lived space western Firefly has a cult following for a reason: the characters. Gina Torres plays Zoe Washburne, the 2nd in command aboard the Serenity Spaceship. A “warrior woman” as described by her husband, Washburne is a capable veteran who keeps Serenity’s snarky Captain, Mal (Nathan Fillion) in check.
Doc McStuffins – Doc McStuffins Disney Channel
Dottie “Doc” McStuffins is a revolution in children’s television. She is a girl “doctor” (whose patients are her stuffed animals). The idea that she a girl doctor (specifically, daughter of another woman doctor) was pitched by executive producer Chris Nee. Disney also added on that she would be black. Okay, so Doc McStuffins is for children, but that’s what is so intriguing, and important. Seeing children’s programming setting this positive influence for our kids makes me feel better, so much better.