I REMEMBER watching ‘Top Boy’ back in 2011 like many others my age did. As a show with a predominately black British cast showcasing a facet of London life that some of us knew all too well, it was a must watch for my friends and I as we’d tune into Channel 4 to see the evolution of the crime drama.
But beyond the drug rings, turf wars and gritty realism of Top Boy, there was someone in particular who always stood out to me.
Chantelle – played by Letitia Wright – lit up the screen whenever she appeared. As one of the few women in the show, her character stood out among the seemingly gritty ‘boys club’ cultivated on the show which included rappers Kano, Scorcher and actor Ashley Walters.
Dressed in hoodies, plaid shirts with a pair of cheap hoop earrings to boot, Chantelle was able to hold her own and gave us a glimpse into Wright’s star power which was beginning to take shape.
Fast forward a few years later, and here we are. The Guyanese-born actress is en route to becoming a household name, not only for her brilliant performance as Shuri in Black Panther, but also for her Emmy-nominated appearance in ‘Black Mirror’, riveting stage performance in ‘The Convert” and now as the 2019 winner of the BAFTA EE Rising Star Award.
One of the biggest young actors, Timothee Chalamet – the waif like, blue eyed boy that Generation Z-ers swoon over for his roles in both ‘Beautiful Boy’ and the infamous ‘Call Me By Your Name’ – has gone onto become a rising international star and I have no doubt that Wright is ‘right’ there with him – even with the many limitations often placed upon black women that leaves them underserved, underpaid and underrepresented.
While the comparison might seem unmatched, we are beginning to see an equilibrium between diverse talent and it being rewarded accordingly. Both actors – one a black British woman from London and the other a white American hailing from New York – are both insanely talented and are receiving the acclaim and success for it. And I can’t say that has always been the case.
Additionally, Wright’s BAFTA win and career signifies a shift in British TV & film culture and what it represents for both black actors and actresses. We’re seeing a change in what British actors “look” like and are globally perceived to be. Gone are the days of the Keira Knightley’s and Jude Law’s being the main representation of what it is to be British.
Now the door is wide open for the John Boyega’s, Daniel Kaluuya’s, Cynthia Erivo’s and the Letitia Wright’s – the later being of slightly bigger significance given the severe lack of representation of black women across various fields.
As 2019 really kicks into high gear, i’m excited to see what’s in store for Wright’s career, and the flurry of black actors and actresses who now feel they can truly have a sit at the British table.