4 black actors who played historical figures and totally nailed it

Novieku Babatunde Adeola October 01, 2019
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013) Idris Elba as Nelson Mandela (Screengrab)

American actor, Will Smith is set to produce and star in a new movie which will be streamed on Netflix.

The role, which will be Smith’s first as a drug kingpin, comes at a time when A-list Black American acts are inking Netflix deals.

In the movie, The Council, Smith will play the role of a drug kingpin, based on New York City crime boss Nicky Barnes and his syndicate who ran Harlem in the 1970s and ’80s.

The Council comes off the back of a productive relationship between Netflix and the actor following the successful premiere of Bright, with Netflix revealing afterwards of an imminent sequel.

Smith isn’t the only African-American act to play Barnes in a movie. He follows the footsteps of Cuba Golding, Jr., who played an ostentatious portrayal of Barnes in American Gangster, a Denzel Washington film against the famous trafficker, Frank Lucas.


Singer Sean “Puffy” Combs also portrayed Barnes in the 2015 film, Carlito’s Way: Rise to Power. This will, however, be the first time Nicky Barnes’ story is at the forefront.

In an official movie synopsis: “The Council is the never-before-told story of a crime syndicate consisting of seven African-American men who ruled Harlem in the 1970s and early 80s. No ordinary crime syndicate, the men dreamed of a self-sufficient and seld-policing African American city-state, funded by revolutionizing the drug game. The movie centers on the Shakespearean court intrigue between The Council’s King, Nicky Barnes, dubbed ‘Mr. Untouchable’ by the New York Times, and all the different members as one unlikely protégé emerges.”

Below are four black actors who have excelled in playing historical figures on-screen.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: October 1, 2019


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