It’s hard to think of a film franchise bigger than Bond. Dr. No, the first one, hit the big screen in 1962, and the latest one, Spectre, the 24th in the installment, opens Friday. During that 53-year span, the following five black actresses have orbited the 007 universe.
Trina Parks: Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
Her father may have played with Cab Calloway and she, an accomplished dancer, may have worked with Katherine Dunham, but the Brooklyn, N.Y., native is best-known as the first black actress to appear in the Bond franchise. As Thumper, Parks, who had, by this time, also trained in martial arts, didn’t sex it up with James Bond, played by the original, Sean Connery, but she did get in a few good licks, most notably a ferocious kick to the groin. At the time, Parks’ role was uncredited, but her impact hasn’t been.
Gloria Hendry: Live and Let Die (1973)
Distinguished as Bond’s first black love interest, Florida-born, New Jersey-raised Gloria Hendry played Rosie Carver in the 1973 film starring Roger Moore. Prior to making a splash as Bond’s love interest, Hendry, a onetime Playboy bunny, had roles in For the Love of Ivy and Across 110th Street before her breakout role as Helen Bradley in Black Caesar, released months before Live and Let Die, and which established her as a leading love interest in blaxploitation films. Hendry’s sexy scenes with Moore were so disruptive for the times that apartheid South Africa deleted them from the film.
Grace Jones: A View to a Kill (1985)
One of Jamaica’s finest certainly had an impact on the Bond franchise. Playing a villainess of the highest order, Jones’s May Day was a formidable force. Her relationship with Bond, played by Roger Moore, was on a slippery slope, but a highly memorable one. Prior to starring in a Bond film, the chart-topping music artist had made a strong impression the year before in Conan the Destroyer.
Halle Berry: Die Another Day (2002)
The Ohio native’s appearance in the Bond franchise was arguably the biggest for a black actress. Giacinta “Jinx” Johnson was an American spy who later teamed up with Bond, played by Pierce Brosnan, to take down a North Korean terrorist. Berry, as Jinx, even re-created the iconic bikini scene of Ursula Andress’ Honey Ryder from Dr. No, the first Bond film. Hopes were very high for Berry and her Bond career, but a planned spinoff for Jinx was nixed.
Naomie Harris: Skyfall (2012), Spectre (2015)
Repeat performances for black actresses in a Bond film are rare, but Harris—the first black British actress to appear in the franchise, with the able Daniel Craig, nonetheless—also holds the distinction of being the first black actress to play Moneypenny, a Bond fixture. In her Skyfall debut, Moneypenny upgraded from secretary to field agent, assisting Bond in his “humanitarian” escapades, but later returned behind the desk after accidentally shooting him. In Spectre she bobs in and out, aiding Bond as best she can.
Ronda Racha Penrice is a freelance writer living in Atlanta. She is the author of African American History for Dummies.