By Aaron Zaretsky
It is no secret that the film and television industry is male-dominated. In the past half century, there has been a dramatic increase in Canadian actresses, more specifically Black Canadian actresses. Below are FIVE Black Canadian actresses who not only grabbed the spotlight, but have made an impact in these industries.
Born in Vancouver, British Columbia and of Nigerian descent, Enuka Okuma has an impressive resume. She is a five-time Gemini Award-nominee, a 2013 Canadian Screen Award nominee for best supporting actress in a drama program or series, and appeared in over 45 television shows! Her most notable work is portraying detective sergeant Traci Nash in Rookie Blue from 2010-2015.
She also starred in crime drama television series Sue Thomas F.B. Eye from 2002-2005, where she played Sue Thomas’s best friend Lucy Dotson. Okuma also shared the big screen with Hollywood actors Tommy Lee Jones in Double Jeopardy, Ben Affleck in Reindeer Games, and most recently Steve Carell and Emma Stone in Battle of the Sexes.
After immigrating to Oshawa, Ontario with her mother at 12 years old, Tonya Williams became an actress during high school. At 16, she was featured in Milk’s ‘Wear a Moustache’ national campaign across Canada. From there, Williams landed a starring role as Dr. Olivia Barber, in soap opera The Young and the Restless.
She portrayed this character for 20 years, and received critical acclaim, including two Emmy nominations. In 2001, Williams created the Reelworld Film Festival, which empowers racially diverse emerging talent in Canada. This festival has launched the careers of hundreds of racially diverse artists and filmmakers, and continues to be a valuable resource for talent in all areas of the film and television industries.
Rachael Crawford began her acting career as a teenager in Toronto. Throughout her career she has been in several movies and television series such as Traders, When Night is Falling, Pale Saints, and The Book of Negroes. Crawford is best known for her performance in Rude, which is the first Canadian feature to be produced, written and directed by African-Canadians. She portrayed Maxine, a window dresser who is depressed after having an abortion and losing her lover. Crawford received her first Genie nomination for best supporting actress. For her other work, she has received multiple Gemini and Genie nominations.
Born in Toronto, Vinessa Antoine was a series regular in Canadian comedy series Being Erica where she portrayed Judith Winters, a perfectionist who is lead character Erin Karpluk’s best friend. Afterwards, Antoine got her big break as a series regular on American soap opera General Hospital from 2014-2018. She portrayed Jordan Ashford, the estranged mother of rebellious teenage son TJ Ashford.
Currently, Antoine has a leading role in Canadian drama series Diggstown, where she plays Marcie Diggs, a top corporate lawyer working at a legal aid office in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. In the process, Diggstown is the first Canadian drama series to feature a Black Canadian woman as its lead character.
Born in Toronto, Tamara Taylor made her acting debut in nationally televised commercials. From there, she appeared in an episode of American sitcom A Different World. Taylor’s success landed her a series regular role on American drama series, Party of Five, playing Matthew Fox’s love interest, Grace. She was also in some big screen features such as Tyler Perry’s Diary of a Mad Black Woman.
Taylor got her big break as a series regular on American forensic crime drama series Bones. She played Dr. Camille Saroyan, a pathologist and head of the Forensic Division at Jeffersonian Institute, from 2006-2017. Currently, Taylor has a starring role in American horror series, October Faction, which is in pre-production.
Enuka Okuma, Tonya Williams, Rachael Crawford, Vinessa Antoine and Tamara Taylor are five Black Canadian actresses who have dominated the film and television industries. They have all made an impact and VIBE105 is proud to showcase them in our spotlight!