This isn’t a randomly-selected collection of any ol’ 30 black characters on TV right now. This is a collection of 30 incredible and distinctive TV characters, who also happen to be responsible for the blackening of this very white Golden Age of TV (especially as it now transitions to Peak TV). More black actors on TV in and of themselves do not signify progress—but more black actors playing strange and fascinating characters does. So this isn’t a celebration of every black character on TV (though they all represent some sort of symbolic shift), but those new, few who represent an actual range in narratives. A villain who cracks jokes about prog rock, a father who works for $5.15 an hour (plus commission), a mother of a NBA star who gets vaginal rejuvenation surgery, an enslaved American who will change everything you ever thought you understood about enslaved Americans—these are the characters who, with all their odd and beautiful blackness, are making TV great again… for the first time.
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Sophia Burset (Laverne Cox), "Orange is the New Black" — Memorable Quote: "This is your clitoris."
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Mike Milligan (Bokeem Woodbine), "Fargo" — Memorable Quote: "And isn't that a minor miracle? The state of the world today and the level of conflict and misunderstanding, that two men could stand on a lonely road in winter and talk calmly and rationally... while all around them, people are losing their mind."
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Suzanne "Crazy Eyes" Warren (Uzo Aduba), "Orange is the New Black" — Memorable Quote: "If she likes dragons, wife her up!"
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Rosalee (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), "Underground" — Memorable Quote: "I hate when my mama would hold my shoulder in the cook house. I like the sound of the leaves rustlin' through the trees in the plantation. It's like hearin' a song on a windy day. I like the smell of these tin cookies Ms. Suzanna used to buy. But I never did try one. Yellow my favorite color! But the real shiny kind, like on this ribbon I used to like to wear. I ain't just a name on a slave bill. I ain't just a runaway. And I ain't just five thousand dollars."
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Captain Ray Holt (Andre Braugher), "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" — Memorable Quote: "I have zero interest in food. If it were feasible, my diet would consist entirely of flavorless beige smoothies containing all the nutrients required by the human animal."
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Sue Wilson (Sufe Bradshaw), "Veep" — Memorable Quote: "You have about 10 seconds to stop distracting me or the next thing they'll find at the back of that couch are your remains."
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Garnet (voice of Estelle), "Steven Universe" — Memorable Quote: "I am their fury. I am their patience. I am a conversation."
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Ernestine (Amirah Vann), "Underground" — Memorable Quote: "Remember what I told you about the two masks we got to wear?"
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Eli Pope (Joe Morton), "Scandal" — Memorable Quote: "You've been coddled and cared for, pampered and hugged. For you it's always summertime and living is easy. Your daddy's rich and your mama's good looking. You're a Grant. You got money in your blood. You are a 'boy'. I'm a man. I have worked for every single thing I have ever received. I have fought and scraped and bled for every inch of ground I walk on. I was the first in my family to go to college. My daughter went to boarding school with the children of kings. I made that happen. You cried yourself to sleep because daddy hurt your feelings, because papa banged his secretary, because it hurt to have so much money."
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Earnest Marks (Donald Glover), "Atlanta" — Memorable Quote: "Hey. That guy ever say 'nigga' around you?"