Representation matters. It’s not enough for our favorite television shows to feature actors of color. We need representation behind the scenes as well, to ensure that the stories and experiences of underrepresented groups are being told with honesty, complexity, and respect.
Netflix’s bottomless library features many wonderful shows — from gripping dramas to fluffy comedies — created, produced, written, or directed by Black artists. The best way to lift these creatives up is to call out their names, so in no particular order, here’s a sampling of our favorite Netflix television shows with talented Black creators at their helm. Go forth and binge!
After his mother suffers a mental breakdown and is moved to a hospital, Ra’Nell finds himself with no choice but to join a thriving underground drug organization in his East London housing complex. Top Boy first aired in the UK from 2011 to 2013, but was revived by Aubrey Graham (aka Drake!), Adel Nur, Maverick Carter, and Jamal Henderson for Netflix in 2019. This meaty drama, which has been compared to HBO’s The Wire, is startlingly grounded, anchored by a young, talented cast that radiates with vulnerability. This is television at its best.
Meg DeLoatch, a former Family Matters producer, created this bright and lovable sitcom about a family from Seattle who moves to Georgia to be closer to their relatives. Tia Mowry shines as Cocoa McKellan, a mother of four doing her best to make the right choices for her family. Family Reunion mines many of its laughs from family discord, but the love between these characters is palpable and deep. It’s a sweet, endearing, G-rated comedy that puts the “family” in “family sitcom.”
Jesse Collins Entertainment has teamed up with #1000BlackGirlBooks founder Marley Dias, children’s media consultant Kevin A. Clark, and showrunner Fracaswell Hyman to bring us Bookmarks: Celebrating Black Voices. Much like Reading Rainbow, Bookmarks features readings of children’s books, but here, all the readers are Black celebrities, like Tiffany Haddish and Lupita Nyong’o, and all the books are written by Black authors. This absolutely delightful show seeks to bring more light to stories that showcase the Black experience.
When a South LA high school football player is recruited to play for Beverly Hills High, his world is turned upside down. Based on the life of actual NFL linebacker Spencer Paysinger, All-American is a compelling, satisfying drama with an absolutely stellar cast. Taye Diggs sparkles as the head coach at Beverly Hills High, and Daniel Ezra handles his breakout role as the star wide receiver with complete confidence. All-American is led by showrunner Nkechi Okoro Carroll and regularly features Black writers and directors like Benny Boom, Dawn Wilkinson, Kevin Rodney Sullivan, Jameal Turner, and Cam’ron Moore (among many others!).
This LeSean Thomas original anime series is inspired by the story of Yasuke, a real-life 16th-century Black samurai. Through flashbacks, we piece together the events that led Yasuke (LaKeith Stanfield) to abandon his warrior’s life and hole up in a small town. In the present, after years of solitude, impending danger forces him to once again pick up his katana. Set in a mystical feudal Japan, and elevated by a fresh soundtrack from Flying Lotus, this alternate reality story of an actual historical figure is moody, well-paced, and engrossing. Though far too heavy and gory for kids, Yasuke is a cool treat for those adults who love anti-heroes and stunning sword fights.*
When They See Us
The most culturally significant project Netflix released in 2019, Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us revisits the case of the Central Park Five in excruciating detail. Examining the wrongful convictions of five Black and Latino men for the rape of a woman in 1989 — for which they would be exonerated over a decade later — this poignant true-crime miniseries offers a heart-wrenching look at the flaws in our justice system. Not only spectacular viewing, When They See Us highlights the insidious biases that plague our society and the vulnerable people put at risk.* — Alison Foreman, Entertainment Reporter
Dear White People
Created by Justin Simean and based on the award-winning film he wrote and directed, Dear White People follows a group of Black college students as they navigate the highs and lows of attending an Ivy League school. The show contains humor and drama in equal measure, tackling race relations with grace, insight, and a sharp wit. With Simean himself writing and directing many of the episodes, it’s no wonder that this clever and endearing show is beloved by audiences and critics alike.
Written by Antonio Dikele Distefano, an Italian author, Zero is a fresh take on the superhero genre. Omar, the son of Senegalese immigrants, lives in public housing on the outskirts of Milan and has a secret: He can become invisible. A relatively shy kid, Omar’s powers are based on his emotions. Whenever he feels something intensely, he vanishes. What’s different from other superhero stories is that in Zero, the main villain is not some crazed megalomaniac but the poverty and gentrification affecting the area where Omar lives. Don’t let the subtitles scare you off — Zero is spectacular.
Sarah looks after corporate enquiries and relationships for UKFilmPremieres, CelebEvents, ShowbizGossip, Celeb Management brands for the MarkMeets Group. Sarah works for numerous media brands across the UK.
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