The Black Female Biopics I Most Want to See

On today’s episode of my podcast “Cinema in Noir” my co-hosts and I talked about the black female biopics we would most like to see on the big screen. This was inspired by a post that my co-host Candice wrote on her blog Reel Talk (read her picks here). Below are the black female biopics that I want to see and the actresses that I think should bring them to life.

Rashida Jones as Fredi Washington

Washington was an accomplished actress in the 1920s and 30s. She starred as “Peola” in the 1934 version of Imitation of Life opposite Louise Beavers. Because of her complexion, Washington was encouraged to pass for white, which she refused. As a result of her looks, she found it hard to find roles and eventually left Hollywood. I think that Jones could handle this role with the style, grace, and empathy that Washington deserves.


Anika Noni Rose as Cicely Tyson

Tyson is the living embodiment of the word legend. The first African-American Actress to win an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a TV Movie, the first black woman to host Saturday Night Live and one of the few to be nominated for the Best Actress Academy Award, Tyson is an icon. The actress who portrays Tyson has to embody her undeniable class, unwavering strength and her uncanny beauty. I think that Rose is just the woman to do it.


Kerry Washington as Jessie Fauset

Fauset was one of the most significant figures of the Harlem Renaissance. She is considered the “midwife” of the movement. She was a protégé of WEB DuBois and considered him a mentor and friend. She was the editor of The Crisis Magazine and considered by many to be the most intelligent women novelist of her time. I think Washington has the poise and talent to bring the life of this behind the scenes literary hero to the forefront.

Salli Richardson-Whitfield as Pam Grier

Grier’s autobiography, Foxy: My Life in Three Acts is the perfect blueprint for a biopic. Her performances as “Foxy Brown” and “Coffy” are legendary. Grier is regarded by many as the first female action star. In my opinion, Richardson-Whitfield has the look, the physicality, and above all else, the acting chops to bring Foxy to life.

Viola Davis as Barbara Jordan

Jordan was the first African American elected to the Texas State Senate and was the first African American female elected to the US House of Representatives. After hearing Davis’ numerous acceptance speeches over the course of this award season, I began to imagine her on the big screen reenacting Jordan’s legendary speech at the 1976 Democratic National Convention. It would be a truly magical cinematic moment.

Gabrielle Union as Zora Neale Hurston

Hurston is one of the most celebrated African-American novelists. In addition to her work as a writer and anthropologist, the stories of Hurston’s independent spirit and nonconformist ways are legendary (she smoked and wore pants when many women did not). I would love to see Union sink her teeth in the complex world of Hurston. With the right director (say Kasi Lemmons), I think this could be epic.

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