TBB Presents: The Case For Black Women in Science Fiction and Fantasy On Screen Part 3

tbb_black_women_in_sci_fi_part_3_4In Part 2 [read here] we found 40 black actresses in diverse roles dating back over 40 years, starting with Tina Turner in musical fantasy Tommy 1975. African-American actresses were three times more likely to land a SFF film role than black British actresses. This isn’t hugely surprising since, due to necessarily large budget requirements, most sci fi and fantasy movies are made by rich studios… in America.

But, despite the diversity of roles and the quality of the performances, many of the parts themselves still lack screen time and quality character development – something all actresses are subject to. As to the question of colourism, actresses with ‘medium to dark skin tone’ (including darker skinned mixed race actresses Torres and Saldana) do win more big screen roles. This could be because many of them have earned more experience and have a higher professional or celebrity profile with a proven box office or TV record. The question now becomes, do these trends change for live action small screen productions? So, now TBB presents…

Part 3: Black Women in SFF Television

British actresses do slightly better in SFF TV, though, in terms of episode appearances, the Queens are still American. This is usually due to landing multiple single roles, multiple recurring roles or becoming a series regular in a long-running series. There is a huge difference depending on which side of the Atlantic you land on – one season can mean 12-22 episodes in the USA (usually the latter) vs 6-13 in Britain (usually the former). Again, interestingly, these roles do seem to pass the Sexy Lamp Test more often than not. SFF genre TV has had surges and resurges and is currently enjoying an exponential rate of production. Thanks to the casting of Nichelle Nichols as Uhura1 in 1966, black women in SFF television have a slightly longer history than in film at 51 years.

Excluding animated productions, we found 29 black British, 2 black World (Jamaican and Ethiopian-Irish) and 25 African-American actresses – a total of 56 women of colour in notable SFF TV roles. We also felt the need to highlight the contribution of one particular British sci fi TV series for, at least in its modern incarnation, taking unprecedented strides in regularly featuring black British female talent… for a while.

Nichelle Nichols, USA, (5) –

is respectfully discussed first, as Queen Mother of SFF TV, because of her pioneering character – comms and linguistics officer Lt. Uhura in 69/79 episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series (1966-69). She also starred as Captain Uhura in all 3 episodes of the mini-series Star Trek: Of Gods and Men (2007-08) directed by Tim Russ (Tuvok, the first black Vulcan in the Voyager series). Uhura, being Swahili for ‘freedom’, was almost certainly the first non-stereotyped depiction of a black woman on weekly American television, an honour usually attributed to Diahann Carroll as doctor’s office nurse Julia Baker in Julia (86 episodes, 1968 – 1971), and we feel this should be corrected! Nichols had intended to leave the series in 1967, after its first season, but a conversation with Martin Luther King Jr changed her mind. He said, “…for the first time, we’re seen as we should be seen. You don’t have a black role, you have an equal role… You are our image of where we’re going, you’re 300 years from now… “ Indeed, her competence and bravery as a Lieutenant was only briefly overshadowed by her participation in the first televised inter-racial kiss with Captain Kirk in “Plato’s Stepchildren”, episode 3.10, 1968. It is done reluctantly, under compulsion, whilst he looks hatefully/defiantly at his puppet master, and it is incredibly brief (see Youtube). The Network insisted on an additional version being filmed without the kiss to decide later which should be aired. They proved un-usable since Shatner and Nichols sabotaged every take without it, highlighting its importance to the cast and crew.

Much as I like The Big Bang Theory (TBBT, 2007-) their particular brand of Hipster Racism [discussed in TBB’s Optical Illusions Pt 1] surfaced again in series 6 of episode 18, interestingly, as 3 of the main characters are about to inspire high school girls to pursue science subjects with the following opening scene interchange:

Sheldon Cooper: I believe in a gender-blind society like in Star Trek, where women and men of all races and creeds worked side by side as equals.

Leonard Hofstadter: You mean where they were advanced enough to invent an inter-stellar warp drive but a black lady still answered the space phone?

Nichelle Nichols (2015)

Nichelle Nichols (2015)

Is this clever comedy? A cool joke? Not really, no. Not when you consider the social, political and industry impact of the character, not to mention that Uhura was multi-skilled, a more than competent leader, progressed from Lieutenant to Lt. Commander in the six spin-off movies, then to Captain, in the spin-off mini-series. Nor when you consider their limited view of diversity as evidenced by TBBT have themselves featured only 7 African-American actresses in named roles across only 14/191+ episodes. Only 2 were recurring – Vernee Watson as Althea the ‘sarcastic’ Sperm Bank nurse, Emergency Department nurse and Critical Care nurse (5 episodes, 2006-12); and Regina King as HR boss Janine Davis (4 episodes, 2013-14). Oscar-winning Octavia Spencer was one of five remaining who made only one appearance, all in 2008, as ‘sassy, indifferent’ DMV official Octavia!

“…You are our inspiration.” MLK Jr told Nichols. Yet, interestingly, Star Trek did not particularly continue in its pioneering spirit, as far as black female characters were concerned (see Captain Kasidy Yates-Sisko and Guinan, later). Nichols’ other TV roles include Nana Dawson in 5/81 episodes of Heroes 2007; Sagan High Priestess of Pangea in TV movie The Adventures of Captain Zoom in Outer Space 1995; and Senator in TV film Scooby Doo! Curse of the Lake Monster 2010.

Dr Who (BBC, 26 seasons 1963-1989, 9 series 2005-present: 813+ [+97 missing] episodes)

Was not mentioned or credited in the Ebony article [1] as a feeder to the attentions of other film and TV productions. But, it deserves a special mention, having arguably cast the first black actress in a recurring role in a mainstream sci fi TV series in Britain, choosing to cast a woman as the first black Companion and 15 of our most prominent black TV actresses in one or more episode. This is particularly true of the rebooted series initially written and produced by Russell T Davies since 2005. It airs on BBC 1 in the UK and BBC America in the USA and, since 2005, one series is 13 episodes long, a Special.

Christine_Adams as Cathica Santini Khadeni in BBC Sci Fi series Dr Who

Christine_Adams as Cathica Santini Khadeni in BBC Sci Fi series Dr Who

Five years into the initial run, 15 months after Star Trek first aired featuring Uhura, Ms Carmen Munroe played heroic, rebellious servant Fariah in 3/6 episodes of The Enemy of The World serial storyline in her only sci fi role. Appearing in episodes 2-4 with the Second Doctor (30 December 1967-13 January 1968), these three enjoyed some of the highest ratings of the 6-episode serial. They drew 7.6, 7.1 and 7.9 million viewers, whilst episodes 1, 5 and 6 drew 6.8, 6.9 and 8.3m. She was poised and beautiful, with not a hint of SDSSBW anywhere in her performance, her storyline being she was blackmailed into being antagonist Salamander’s personal servant.

Unfortunately, it was another 36 years before they followed up on this landmark achievement by casting the fantastic Christine Adams who, with 6 TV SFF roles is the UK Queen. In Dr Who, she played curious, brave journalist Cathica Santini Khadeni (2005) in the prominent ‘helper’ role. She had previously played temple handmaid-turned Hak’tyl resistance fighter Mala in 1/213 episode of Stargate SG-1 (2003) and went on to play K-18 dog trainer and widow Simone Hundin in 3/22 episodes of Pushing Daisies (2007-09); police psychologist Dr Madeline Gibson in 1/76 episodes of Heroes 2009; battle-hardened leader of a splinter human colony Mira in all 13 episodes of Terra Nova 2011 and head of SHIELD science and technology division Agent Anne Weaver in 9/66 episodes of Marvel’s Agents of Shield (2014-15).

Next came Dona Croll (2) in full body make up as a humanoid cat, Sisters of Plenitude leader, Matron Casp in New Earth (2006). She also played June Sarpong in 4 episodes of Time Trumpet; that year, Angel Coulby (2) followed as French Lady Katherine in The Girl in The Fireplace (2006). She went on to co-star as Guinevere in 65/65 episodes of Merlin (2008-12); then came Nina Sosanya (2) as frightened mum Trish in Fear Her (2006), who went on to play second lead Benny Sherwood’s mum Tricia in 5/36 episodes of Wizards vs Aliens (2012-13); British TV and theatre legend Mona Hammond (1) played Rita-Anne in Rise of The Cybermen (2006).

Mona Hammond as Rita-Anne Smith in BBC Sci Fi Series Dr Who

Mona Hammond as Rita-Anne Smith in BBC Sci Fi Series Dr Who

Next, was the serendipitous casting of Freema Agyeman (4) as Torchwood scientist Adeola Oshodi in Army of Ghosts (2006). She then returned as the first black Companion, medical student Dr. Martha Jones, Adeola’s cousin, for 20 episodes in series 3, some of series 4 (2007-2008) and later in 2010. She was a brave and selfless Companion, who singlehandedly saved the world and progressed to become a medical doctor, then a paranormal military Medical Officer for UNIT and a Torchwood team member in 3/41 episodes (2008), saving the spin off from a dire record of black actresses. More recently, she played fiercely loyal, intuitive cisgender Normal Amanita in 12/12 episodes of Sense8 2015, who is transgender Nomi’s love and a sensate ally. I believe her fantastic performance in this role, has encouraged worldwide re-evaluation and appreciation for Dr Jones!

Thereafter: Lenora Crichlow (2) appeared as New Earth kidnapper Cheen in Gridlock (2007). She went on to co-star as ghost Annie Sawyer in all 30 episodes of Being Human (series 1-4, 2009-12), 6 more than Russell Tovey (werewolf George) and 7 more than Aidan Turner (vampire Mitchell); Gugu Mbatha-Raw (1) played Martha’s sister Tish Jones in 4 episodes (2007); Adjoa Andoh (4) initially played minor character Sister Jatt in New Earth (2006), but returned as Martha’s mum Francine Jones in 8 episodes (2007-08). She had previously played Head of M.I.9 in 7/87 episodes of M.I. High (2009-11) and Old Bethesda in 2/36 episodes of Wizards vs Aliens (2013). After Martha and the Joneses moved on, the frequency of casting black actresses slackened markedly.

Noma Dumezweni as Captain Erisa Magambo in BBC Sci Fi Series Dr Who

Noma Dumezweni as Captain Erisa Magambo in BBC Sci Fi Series Dr Who

Olivier award-winner Noma Dumezweni (2) played UNIT officer and hero Captain Erisa Magambo in 2 episodes (2008-09). She had previously played a 5th level wizard and wielder of Anjadurah’s Wand of Utter Negativity, Marchessa, in The Colour of Magic TV movie (2008); Tracy Ifeachor (1) played billionaire’s daughter and potential immortal Abigail Naismith in the 2-episode Christmas Special (2009); Zawe Ashton (2) played rebel soldier Journey Blue in Into The Dalek (2014) and had previously played Jessica in 1 episode of Misfits (2010), which had a pretty decent casting record for black British actresses; and Jaye Griffiths (3) is currently playing Jac in 4 episodes – The Zygon Inversion (2) and The Magician’s Apprentice (2) (2015). She had previously played Jenny Wendle in 10/13 episodes of Weirdsister College (2002) and Mother Wizard in 1/36 episodes of Wizards vs Aliens (2013).

And so, to the non-Who universe. The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films (USA) introduced the television arm of the Saturn Awards in 1996. There have been no black actresses nominated in the Best Actress (1996-present) or Supporting Actress (1999-present) categories. The Best Guest Starring Role on Television award was introduced in 2008, with only one nomination for a black female character (fantasy).

Gina Torres, USA, (12) is TV Queen as pathologist Dr Amy Ellis in TV pilot film M.A.N.T.I.S. (Mechanically Augmented Neuro-Transmitter Interception System,1995)

Gina Torres, USA, (12) is TV Queen as pathologist Dr Amy Ellis in TV pilot film M.A.N.T.I.S. (Mechanically Augmented Neuro-Transmitter Interception System,1995)

Gina Torres, USA, (12) is TV Queen with 8 sci fi roles. Starting as pathologist Dr Amy Ellis in TV pilot film M.A.N.T.I.S. (Mechanically Augmented Neuro-Transmitter Interception System, 1995) a tale of an African American superhero by Sam Raimi; Cleopatra in 1 episode of Xena: Warrior Princess 1997; ex-sumerian princess turned famous pirate captain Nebula who rejected the Sumerian treatment of women in 8/111 episodes of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys 1997-99 (including casting director Beth Hymson in 1 episode in 1998); one of 3 main characters Helen Hel Carter, in all 28 episodes of Cleopatra 2525 (2000-01). She is Team Leader of a trio of female resistance fighters against armed machines, the Baileys, to re-take the Earth’s surface.

Despite only running for one series with one spin-off movie classic Serenity, Zoe Washburne in all 14 episodes of Firefly 2002-03 is a sci fi legend. As second-in-command Corporal to Sgt. Mal Reynolds, she is an ex-soldier of the Independents army and is now first mate on Serenity. She is extremely close and fiercely loyal to Mal, exercises a super-dry wit and maintains a happy marriage with pacifist pilot Wash. She is quiet and deadly with her preferred weapon – a version of the Mare’s Leg, a shortened Winchester Model 1892 rifle; ruthless assassin and nemesis to Sydney Bristow, Anna Espinosa, in 6 episodes of Alias 2001-06.

Torres’ 5 fantasy roles include: Jasmine the “Devourer” – a super being who feeds on humanity to make each her spiritual slave via mind control in 5/110 episodes of Angel 2003; beautiful grifter Lila Robertson in 1 episode of Pushing Daisies 2009; wife to FBI agent, Felicia Wedeck, in 2 episodes of Flash Forward 2009; witch and former Damon Salvatore lover, Bree in 1 episode of The Vampire Diaries 2010. Terminally ill wife of Buffalo Bill murder investigator, Phyllis Bella Crawford, in 5/39 episodes of Hannibal (2013-15). This earned Torres a nomination in the Saturn Best Guest Starring Role on Television category. Gina Torres is an actress I see going from strength to strength. In fact, I think she would be perfect for the Star Wars Universe if the much called for Firefly reunion doesn’t take place!

CCH Pounder as Director and Caretaker of The Warehouse Mrs Irene Frederick in Sci Fi series Warehouse 13

CCH Pounder as Director and Caretaker of The Warehouse Mrs Irene Frederick in Sci Fi series Warehouse 13

CCH Pounder, USA, (8)  – as Light Side clinic Nurse Shabana in TV movie White Dwarf 1995; Mama Harper, mother of main protagonist with a white girlfriend whom Sam must protect during the Watts riots in 1/97 episode of Quantum Leap 1990; radio talk show host Fran Ambrose discussing matricide in TV Movie Psycho IV: The Beginning 1990, whom Norman Bates calls to tell his story; FBI Agent Lucy Kazdin in 1/202 episodes of The X Files 1994; Millenium Group pathologist Dr. Cheryl Andrews in 5/67 episodes of Millenium 1996-98; voice of reason Dr. Shauna Kendall in TV movie/2-episode mini-series House of Frankenstein 1997; Harriet Napolean in TV movie Things That Go Bump 1997; mysterious and wise Director and Caretaker of The Warehouse Mrs Irene Frederick in 29/64 episodes of Warehouse 13 2013-14, she was born in 1898 but won’t age as long as The Warehouse is intact, she can sense auras and can possibly teleport. As in film, CCH Pounder has been, and still is, a stalwart of the small screen – a face familiar and reassuring to many of us in strong, intelligent roles, but with credit that is sadly wanting.

Dr. Amanda “The Wall” Waller is a hard line government Agent – a powerful, manipulative character in the DC Universe who directs clandestine operations. Having been portrayed by Angela Bassett in Green Lantern 2011 and in the forthcoming Suicide Squad 2016 by Viola Davis on the big screen, she has also been portrayed on the small screen series, CCH Pounder and Cheryl-Lee Ralph have lent their voices in animated honours, but, Pam Grier played her in 3/217 episodes of Smallville 2009 and Cynthia Addai-Robinson in 15/97 episodes of the live-action series Arrow 2015. Usually drawn as obese, Waller has never been cast as such. In all but Arrow, she has been an African-American actress of ‘medium to dark skin tone’, as drawn. Addai-Robinson is a British-born Ghanaian-American actress of light skin tone.

Salli Richardson-Whitfield as Dr. Alison Blake in Sci Fi series A Town Called Eureka

Salli Richardson-Whitfield as Dr. Alison Blake in Sci Fi series A Town Called Eureka

Salli Richardson-Whitfield, USA, (4) – unnamed role in 1 episode of Space Rangers 1993; psycho-projective being Fenna/Nadell in 1/176 episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine 1993; first incarnation of Teal’c’s practical wife Grey’auc in 1 episode of Star Gate: SG1 1997; genius medical doctor, Department of Defence agent, intermittent director or Global Dynamic and head of GD’s medical science division Dr. Allison Blake in all 77 episodes of A Town Called Eureka 2006-2012 and 3/8 episodes of Eureka 2006. A strong, obviously intelligent character with a medical degree (MD) and 2 PhDs, Blake speaks the voice of logic and science (along with most of the other characters), to Sherriff Jack Carter’s intuition and investigative skills. Richardson-Whitfield really did something with this role, being convincingly scientific and corporate week after week, showcasing a fierce wardrobe and killer heels and showing some of the demands of a professional single mother, albeit in a town with access to the wonders of futuristic technology.

Interestingly, we first meet her with an autistic son, having been widowed after his father’s death (probably African-American, but never really discussed) and separated from a second white, Nobel-winning husband. She eventually divorces then almost remarries Nathan Stark, but he dies on the morning of their wedding. In her mourning, she discovers she has conceived his child, which she delivers, allowing her real-life pregnancy to be written into the series. E-online described this as adding ‘even more depth to her character’s story arc’ [2], which I might have bought, except that she is then wooed by time-travelling white scientist Trevor Grant and eventually marries and conceives a third child with third husband Carter (also white) by the time the series was cancelled at the end of series 5… And Carter is the guy everybody knew she should and would end up with from episode 1 when they first met!!! I am glad they didn’t write her out of the series, but I am not convinced that this arc was the best one to follow, since I am trying really hard to think of a similarly brilliant white female character to have had three children by three different fathers. Suggestions to info@thebritishblacklist.com, please.

Danielle Nicolet, USA, (4) has done well in terms of spread, but is yet to land a role that recurs more than once. Disgruntled employee vampire Tamika in 1 episode of Angel (2004); as super-advanced but emotionally immature android Reese in 1/213 episodes Stargate SG-1 (2002); smart pharmaceutical researcher and possible future Regent (caretaker) Deb Staley in 1/64 episodes of Warehouse 13 (2012); Nicolet has the honour to have played the first live-action depiction of The Flash’s defence attorney Cecile Horton (Nee O’Malley) in 2/42 episodes of The Flash (2015). She was originally drawn as a white red-head with blue-green eyes.

Ruth Negga as Raina in Sci Fi series Image result for agents of shield Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Ruth Negga as Raina in Sci Fi series Image result for agents of shield
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Ruth Negga, Ethiopian-Irish – b. Addis Ababa (2 + 2 forthcoming), raised in Limerick, played tragic Nikki in 6/25 episodes Misfits (2010) – a prominent supporting role where she becomes involved with Curtis, then dies after the main crew sell their powers. Her death inspires them to regain them; as manipulative empath and precognitive non-human scientist Raina – the girl in the flower dress in 17/66 episodes of Marvel’s Agents of Shield (2013-15). This great series had a terrible track record in terms of casting women of colour. Raina was at times child-like, at times flirtatious but always with an underlying threat; She has also been cast as female lead Tulip O’Hare in forthcoming fantasy series Preacher (2016-), ex-girlfriend of the preacher Jesse Custer – “a volatile, action-packed, sexified force of nature, a capable, unrepentant criminal with a love of fashion and ability to construct helicopter-downing bazookas out of coffee cans and corn shine who’s not afraid to steal, kill or corn cob-stab her way out of a bad situation”(Negga will also play Queen of Stormwind, King Llane’s love and trusted counsel Lady Taria in Warcraft 2016).

Alfre Woodard, USA, (3) – a serious actress who has resorted to the occasional TV show more often than most; as the benevolent Queen of the giant Brobdingnagians in the 2-episode TV miniseries Gulliver’s Travels 1996; Lafayettes’s moms and slightly crazy medium Ruby Jean Reynolds in 5/80 episodes of True Blood 2010-12; Woodward will also be a series regular in Luke Cage 2016.

Tanya Moodie, UK, (3) – an Olivier-nominated theatre actress has a SFF record; as Elspeth in 4/19 episodes of So Haunt Me 1994; co-starring role as legendary London Below warrior Hunter in 5/6 episodes of Neverwhere 1996, likened to a lioness in the book; as Alisha in 2/20 episodes of Sea of Souls (2007).

Penny Johnson Jerold, USA (3) –  as Captain Kasidy Yates-Sisko of Petarian freighter Xhosa in 15/173 episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1995-99), she was an independent transporter then worked for the Bajoran Ministry of Commerce. She did time for being tricked into helping the Maquis, but eventually married Starfleet Captain Ben Sisko. Whilst not a starfleet captain, she was probably one of the first to be portrayed by an African-American actress after Uhura. As Director of National Intelligence Rebecca Parrish in 3/43 episodes of The 4400, she was also a future agent – one of The Marked – placed inside the bodies of powerful political figureheads to manipulate the timeline and eliminate the 4400; Centre for Disease Control Dr. Hellura Lyle was uncooperative and disagreeable whilst assisting Scully in 1/201 episodes of The X Files (2001).

Josette Simon as Dayna Mellanby in Sci Fi series Blake's 7

Josette Simon as Dayna Mellanby in Sci Fi series Blake’s 7

Josette Simon, UK, (2) – as human weapons specialist and skilled fighter Dayna Mellanby joined Blake’s 7 for series 3-4 (1980-81), remaining for 26/52 episodes. She was a little naive and idealistic, lively and with a strong sense of humour which contrasted with her Liberator crew mates. She was also, arguably, the third black British actress cast as a series regular in a sci fi TV show She was capable, determined and good under pressure and was also stunningly pretty, always elegant with her low afro; lost city inhabitant Fatima in TV movie Bridge of Time (1997). Simon also voiced The Euchdag in 2/65 episodes of Merlin (2012).

 

Valarie Mae Miller, USA, (2) – as Cynthia “Original Cindy” McEachin in all 42 episodes of Dark Angel (2000-2002) she was the Normal best friend to genetically-enhanced Max in a post-apocalyptic Pacific Northwest. She is a rebel veteran and openly gay; Assistant DA, Sock’s on/off girlfriend and Andi’s best friend Josie in 18/31 episodes Reaper (2007-08). She was often an valuable source of information which helped Sam to track down the mortal records of souls escaped from Hell.

Rutina Wesley , USA, (2) – as an eventual vampire Tara Thornton, co-starred in all 80 episodes of True Blood (2008-14). Tara is smart but cynical due to her abusive background, blunt but fiercely loyal as Sookie’s best friend and protective of all of her loved ones. She grows a lot throughout the series; Chief of Police Liza Werner in Arrow 2015, has a background of having survived a major trauma and come out the stronger for it.

Gabourey Sidibe, USA, (2) – an Oscar and BAFTA-nominated actress who has followed the recent trend of taking roles in quality TV dramas. As witch and Witch Council member Queenie in 12/13 episodes of Coven (3rd season 2013-14), she is of mixed race, being of the Salem witches and a voodoo tribe. Sidibe returned as supporting character Regina Ross in 3/13 episodes in Freak Show (4th season, 2014). Both of these are part of the American Horror Story series (64 epsiodes), chronicling the history of witches and witchcraft in the USA.

Carla Krome, UK, (2) – possessor of X-ray vision, Jess appeared in 16/25 episodes of Misfits (2012-13) as the no-bullshit, slightly stroppy one who eventually shows her vulnerabilities too. It led to her being cast as science teacher Rebecca Pine in 13/39 episodes of Under The Dome 2014, she was a main character and leader, but did end up bludgeoned to death.

Ashley Madekwe, UK, (2) – as Molly Lucas in all 6 episodes of Bedlam (2011), she was a poorly developed character, who was likeable all the same, but didn’t really seem to serve any purpose except to moon over the boys… and one was her gay best friend! Witch, Satanic disciple and handmaiden to main protagonist Mary Sibley, Arawak Indian Tituba is ageless and powerful in her own right, she appears in 24/26 episodes of Salem 2014-15).

Kandyse McClure, USA (2) – as “Dee” Dualla in 54/73 episodes of Battlestar Galactica (2004-09). As Apollo’s ex-wife, she also gracefully acted as liaison between the senior staff of each ship in the fleet. She progressed to Executive Officer aboard the Pegasus. Dualla has proved popular with mainstream audiences; as clairvoyant Agnes Walker in 1 episode of Alphas (2012), she had the ability to see other people’s memories and thoughts via touch and officially vetted candidates before they were allowed to join Red Flag.

Whoopi Goldberg as Guinan in Sci Fi series Star Trek: The Next Generation

Whoopi Goldberg as Guinan in Sci Fi series Star Trek: The Next Generation

Whoopi Goldberg, USA, (2) – as Guinan in 28/176 episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation (1988-1993). She is an El-Aurian refugee from Borg assimilation of her people, she is over half a century old (500-700 years) has been married 23 times and is mother to many children. Her traditional dress and Diasporan back-story has been interpreted as a reference to questions about race and colonisation, which is interesting when you consider that Goldberg apparently approached the show’s producers determined to be on the show after Gates McFadden (Dr Crusher) was fired. She was inspired by Uhura. They turned her away, as they couldn’t visualize her in a role, but then crated one ‘specially for her’ when she said she didn’t mind what size the role would be. They named her after a famous Prohibition bartender and placed her in Ten Forward, the Mess Bar. Whether this particular alien race was created because the intended actress was to be African-American is an interesting question, especially since the Enterprise already had empath Deanna Troi as ship’s counsellor. Did they really need a futuristic version of a SDSSBW? Q hinted that there was much more to her than the crew knew, but it was never explored. Still, I really enjoyed her performance.

Goldberg’s main fantasy role was as exasperated Queen Constantina in one of the most diversely cast TV movies I’ve come across – Cinderella 1997. It also cast Brandy (Norwood), USA, as Cinderella, Whitney Houston, USA, as Fairy Godmother, and Natalie Deselle Reid, USA, as Ugly Sister Minerva. It still only managed to be Tri-racial, however – African-American, white and Phillipino (Paolo Montalban played Prince Christopher). However, there was genuine racial mixing within the Royal Family and Cinderella’s step-family.

In Part 4, we conclude the series by completing the black women in SFF TV with the 22 actresses with recurring roles in single series or who, like Brandy and Whitney had only one role in a TV movie and we conclude on some of the trends we have seen emerge throughout this discussion.

References: 

[1] – http://www.ebony.com/photos/entertainment-culture/15-black-british-actresses-making-major-moves-123

[2] – http://uk.eonline.com/photos/1472/tv-pregnancies-how-shows-worked-in-or-around-baby-bumps/44610

 

 

TBB Presents: The Case For Black Women in Science Fiction and Fantasy On Screen Part 3
for the british blacklist by  @DescantDeb

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