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Future Black History: The Film & TV Stars Commanding the World's Attention Now

Superstars like Tiffany Haddish, Sterling K Brown, Yara Shahidi and many more are changing film and television now and look primed to do so for years to come

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Chadwick Boseman

Chadwick Boseman made a name for himself by portraying some of the most accomplished African American men of the twentieth century, such as Jackie Robinson (in 42), James Brown (Get on Up) and recently, Thurgood Marshall (Marshall), but it’s in a made-up universe where he has proven he can truly shine. The actor first took on the job of playing Black Panther two years ago in Captain America: Civil War, and that's the role that looks poised to make him a true star. The superhero has his own namesake film arriving this month, and Boseman is already signed on to reprise the character in Avengers: Infinity War later this year. If all goes well for those two projects at the box office (which it surely will), there’s no reason to believe there won’t be at least one or two Black Panther sequels—and tons of franchise merch— starring Boseman. Hugh McIntyre

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Tiffany Haddish

Tiffany Haddish already made her mark in the stand-up comedy scene, but her big Hollywood breakthrough came with her unforgettable role in 2017’s Girls Trip. The LA native was able to hold her ground among established actresses Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah and Regina Hall. Despite her rising star status, Haddish stole the show with ease, thanks to her unfiltered, relatable “girl around the way” sense of humor. But what makes Haddish so remarkable is how humble she remains throughout all of the success, even when she met Beyoncé! It’s no wonder she will soon be honored as one of Essence magazine’s “game-changers” at its annual “Black Women in Hollywood” awards. Bianca Gracie

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The stereotypes around Disney child stars are extremely tired and cliché at this point—but they tend to come true with many of the franchise's brightest stars parlaying into wild young adults finding themselves through a series of controversies. And yet just as she graduates from her Disney Channel sitcom, Zendaya has no signs of slowing down her rising and respectable career as she looks to expand it not only in beloved movies (co-starring in The Greatest Showman), but also announcing her intentions to return to Disney to create more roles for women of color. "I definitely want to maybe produce another show with Disney Channel, maybe develop something or create more stories that I think are powerful roles — especially for women and women of color,” the starlet told Entertainment Weekly. "I think it’s important that young people see themselves on the screen and are able to relate to that." There's no post-Disney Hollywood rampage coming from Zendaya...just more empowering, progressive changes in Hollywood. Jeff Benjamin

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Sterling K. Brown

Unlike Daniel Kaluuya, Sterling K. Brown’s career is far from just starting, though they are in a similar position when it comes to seeing their stars rise. Brown has been appearing in mainstream movies and on TV for over 15 years, and while he’s been respected in the entertainment industry for some time, it’s his latest role that has finally brought him the awards and attention he deserves. The popular show This Is Us helped Brown become the first Black actor to win the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Television Series Drama, and he also collected the Emmy in the same category. The program is continually picking up steam—and, perhaps more importantly, viewers—and Brown likely has more trophies coming to him.Hugh McIntyre

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Luka Sabbat

Possibly the coolest kid on the Internet, Luka Sabbat has every attribute to become a star. At just 20-years-old, the young model landed his first acting role on Grown-ish playing the free-spirited Luca Hall, a student at California University that sparks up a slight love interest with protagonist Zoey Johnson, played by Yara Shahidi.

Sabbat’s character is usually seen dripped in the hottest designer brands, from Balenciaga to Off-White, while Sabbat has shared how he styles himself and makes changes to the dialect of the script when necessary. When you’ve modeled for Dolce & Gabbana, Vogue and Kanye’s Yeezy Season, your resume speaks for itself to make these trendy adjustments on set. The ceiling is very high for the “young creative entrepreneur” as he continues to expand his new photo exhibit "Hot Mess" and prepares for season 2 of Grown-ish. Max Barlow

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​Marsai Martin

Marsai Martin is another Black-ish actress who is glowing up right before our eyes. The 13-year-old, who plays Diane Johnson on the hit ABC sitcom alongside fellow Future Black History honoree Yara Shahidi, caught our attention due to her sassy personality and a knowledge wise beyond her years. Now she is branching out on her own to star in her own comedy Little. The upcoming movie is also executive produced by Martin, and she penned the script as well. What other 13-year-old do you know creating their own film?! The deal marks a huge step in the actress' career, as it will be her feature film debut. This is only the beginning for the young actress, who is bound to take over Hollywood over the next few years. Bianca Gracie

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Jordan Peele

Perhaps one of today's best examples of always pursuing your passions no matter which way they take you, Jordan Peele began his career with sketch comedy shows Mad TV and Key & Peele before landing his big breakout moment by directing Get Out. The horror-thriller-drama brought up important conversations about race relations and appropriation in a fascinating and entertaining way. The Academy Awards have already given a major recognition to Peele and Get Out, with Best Director, Picture and Original Screenplay nominations, making him just the third person ever to receive all three nods on his debut film. And at age 38, it looks like he's just hitting his prime (it's about time). Jeff Benjamin

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Daniel Kaluuya

Before Get Out came along, Daniel Kaluuya was only well-known in his native UK, though he had scored a few roles in the U.S., one of which led him to what would become his breakout appearance. Get Out maestro Jordan Peele cast him in his critically-acclaimed horror film thanks to a job well done in a Black Mirror episode. Now he’s a bonafide movie star with an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor to his credit, and the future looks brighter for Kaluuya than perhaps most in Hollywood. Next up for him is Marvel's Black Panther film, set to hit theaters later this month and surely raise his profile even higher. Hugh McIntyre

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​Yara Shahidi

We all became fans of Yara Shahidi back in 2014 when she first starred as Zoey Johnson on ABC’s Black-ish. Since then she's proved herself to be way more than just an actress, as she fights for social justice, embraces her Iranian heritage and stands up for women’s rights—all before her 18th birthday! Her ambition is remarkable, as she scored her own spin-off with Grown-ish while also being accepted into Harvard, where she will double major in Interdisciplinary Sociology and African-American Studies.

"Personally, getting into college was a big deal because I realized it’s probably one of the only things I’ve fully planned. The rest of my life has been, for the most part, a nice little happy accident," she told Vogue last May . "I'm glad that it happened this way, but it's nonetheless unintentional. School has been the one thing that I’ve consistently had my eyes on for the past 12 years. There's that initial fear when you close your eyes and have to click the 'look at decision' button [on each college application] to see what they’ve said about you. It can feel like such a judgment on your entire life." –Bianca Gracie

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Lena Waithe

Lena Waithe claimed she wasn’t even planning on being a writer on Aziz Ansari’s hit Netflix series Master of None, but he was so adamant that she put her two cents in, he traveled around the world just to fit into her busy schedule. That effort paid off when Waithe became the first Black woman to win an Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series. She collected the prize with a beautiful speech for co-writing an episode that came from her own real-life experiences of coming out to her mother (watch above). Waithe's gone on to create her own Showtime series, The Chi, which was an instant hit and has already been renewed for a second season. The world needs voices like Waithe's in entertainment, and now that she’s made it, hopefully hers is heard for decades to come. –Hugh McIntyre

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Michael Che

Michael Che recaps the world's bizarre history as co-anchor of the Weekend Update segment on Saturday Night Live, but he's also making history all on his own. The former Daily Show correspondent already was the first Black anchor on Weekend Update and his vision has graduated him to becoming a co-head writer for SNL alongside Colin Joust. And just like so many of his fellow SNL co-stars and alum, his star only looks to be on the rise with bigger and better roles in his future and just a matter of time. Make sure you're watching Che now, he's about to be everywhere soon. –Jeff Benjamin

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Tessa Thompson

After starting her acting career on TV in shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Heroes and Veronica Mars, Tessa Thompson showed impressive and gutsy initiative when it came to crossing over into movies by asking film powerhouse Tyler Perry to cast her in his project For Colored Girls, which also made its way to the theater (and of course Thompson followed). Since owning her role in Perry’s touching movie, Thompson has gone on to appear in several other well-reviewed films (Dear White People, Creed, Selma), and now she’s reaching new audiences with big turns in, you guessed it, superhero flicks. After starring in Thor: Ragnarok as Valkyrie, she’s slated to become her once again in Avengers: Infinity War (alongside fellow Future Black History Month honoree Chadwick Boseman) later in 2018. Hugh McIntyre

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​Letitia Wright

Hailing from Guyana, the South American talent is quickly making a name for herself as a must-cast actress in the fantasy/sci-fi world. She’s earned praise for her starring roles in TV programs like Black Mirror and Doctor Who, and though she’s only just started to pick up steam when it comes to films, she’s on track to become a major player in those genres with coveted positions in what will absolutely be some of the biggest box offices successes of 2018. Wright has been cast in Black Panther, Ready, Player One, and Avengers: Infinity War, which is turning out to be a launch pad for some of our favorite Future Black History Month actors. –Hugh McIntyre

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Photo of the day

HOLLYWOOD, CA - APRIL 30: NSYNC is honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on April 30, 2018 in Hollywood, Californ

Apr 30: *NSYNC 4EVER

It’s been a while since the guys of *NSYNC reunited. Since their epic onstage reunion at the 2013 MTV VMAs and JC’s 40th birthday, the guys have been doing their own thing, until today! Justin, JC, Joey, Lance and Chris got together to celebrate their new star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and as if the day couldn’t get any better, JC reminds us that tomorrow it’s gonna be MAY.