Imagine how sad your birthday party would be if it were just you. Parties are more fun with a group. The same can be said about our favorite ensemble performances of the year. Whether it’s superheroes fighting villains, a legendary ballroom house securing its place, or a gang pulling off a big rescue, everything works better when you have a team to celebrate with. From long-running familiar faces to historical drama to hilarious sketch comedy TV and movies have given us a wide variety of stories to choose from in 2021. It’s time for the best Black ensemble performances of the year.
2 / 12
Yes, grown-ish is about Yara Shahidi’s Zoey, and she deserves all the accolades she gets for leading the series. However, if the show only followed Zoey and her endless drama it would’ve only lasted a season. We are just as captivated by Jordan Buhat’s heart-breaking portrayal of Vivek’s downfall, Chloe and Halle Bailey letting us in on the pressure of athletes Jazz and Sky, and Deon Cole’s ability to consistently steal every scene. Moving forward, we’re excited to see what the talented cast does with these characters as they truly begin to hit adulthood.
grown-ish Season 4B premieres Thursday, Jan. 27 at 10 pm on Freeform, with previous episodes available on Hulu.
3 / 12
Any superhero worth their salt is only as good as the team that backs them up. For Javicia Leslie’s Ryan Wilder, that includes Camrus Johnson as Luke Fox, Meagan Tandy as Sophie Moore and Nicole Kang as Mary Hamilton. In her first year as Batwoman, Leslie and her co-stars respectfully and honestly dealt with missing girls of color, police violence and racial profiling. These aren’t topics that you normally see covered on a superhero show, but Batwoman used its new Black hero to delve into new Bat stories, and the show was markedly better for it. In the hands of a lesser cast these topics wouldn’t have the same authentic feel, but Ryan, Sophie and Luke were all allowed to highlight their different lives and experiences in an entertaining and realistic way.
Batwoman Season 3 returns Wednesday, Jan. 12 at 9 pm on The CW, with all episodes streaming on The CW app.
4 / 12
In Fatherhood, Kevin Hart showed a dramatic side that we very rarely get to see. However, his young co-star Melody Hurd, Lil Rel Howery, DeWanda Wise and Alfre Woodard all give him the space to deliver a performance that would make robots get the feels. As much as this is Hart’s movie, there’s a level of acting you can only get to when you’re standing across from a legend like Woodard.
Fatherhood is available on Netflix.
5 / 12
Of course we know Idris Elba is amazing, that’s no surprise. Neither is Jharrel Jerome or Caleb McLaughlin. All of them together, portraying three Black men in various stages of life, trying to do what’s best for themselves leads to greatness. Add in the always captivating Lorraine Toussaint and you have something truly special. It’s always exciting to see films find new Black experiences and lives to showcase. We’re not ready to build stables in the backyard, but we will make Concrete Cowboy a re-watch favorite.
Concrete Cowboy is streaming on Netflix.
6 / 12
Consider this our official farewell to black-ish. The No. 1 reason it’s worked so well all these years, is the chemistry among the cast. Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross are the anchors for their talented TV kids. For seven seasons we’ve watched them grow up, and in that time each and every one of them have become better actors. The hilarious Deon Cole, Laurence Fishburne and Jenifer Lewis add an absurdity that keeps the show from getting too lost in the serious issues it often tackles, delivering a near perfect cast dynamic. When we look back at our favorite episodes of black-ish, it’s the ones with the whole family together that are the most memorable, and that’s what we’ll miss when it wraps up its run.
black-ish Season 8 premieres Tuesday, Jan. 4 at 9:30 pm on ABC, with previous episodes available on Hulu.
7 / 12
The Harder They Fall
The Harder They Fall
When Netflix said would you like this star-studded Black western, we said absolutely. Seriously, Jonathan Majors, Idris Elba, Regina King, Zazie Beetz, Lakeith Stanfield, Deon Cole and Delroy Lindo!? That’s too much awesome. Having actors this good in a western allows the audience to instantly give into the setting and relax into the story. The only drawback is that we occasionally found ourselves rooting for the bad guys.
The Harder They Fall is streaming on Netflix.
8 / 12
What will we do on Sundays now that we can’t hang out with our girls anymore? Insecure started out as Issa’s story, but very quickly became just as much about Molly, Tiffany and Kelli. The way they all play off one another is the way we expect a cast who’s spent five seasons building relationships to. When Molly and Issa fought, it felt personal because Yvonne Orji and Issa Rae made us feel it in our souls. As the show winds down, we’re getting more scenes and episodes focused on the friendship between the four women, and we’re thrilled, since that’s why we started watching in the first place.
Insecure airs Sundays at 10 pm on HBO and streams on HBO Max.
9 / 12
The Underground Railroad
The Underground Railroad
In a story as emotionally hard to watch as The Underground Railroad, the audience is only going to stick it out if the actors make the characters real. Led by the commanding performance of Thuso Mbedu as Cora, the cast didn’t shy away from showing not only the horrors of the time, but also the hope that freedom could be reached. Chase Dillon broke hearts and fascinated as Homer, while William Jackson Harper showed that he’s so much more than Chidi. It’s the kind of limited series that only works when everyone is committed to the same outcome.
The Underground Railroad is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
10 / 12
While there is definitely sadness in Pose Season 3, the final eight episodes featured a joy that we couldn’t turn away from. Each episode served as a mini finale for our favorites. We got to celebrate as Elektra became a boss, Angel and Papi had the wedding of their dreams, Blanca became a nurse and Pray Tell closed old family wounds before he passed. We even got one final spectacular ballroom performance from Blanca and Pray Tell, as they went full Diana in Central Park on “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” Pose is a once in a lifetime show, with a once in a lifetime cast.
Pose is available on Netflix.
11 / 12
A Black Lady Sketch Show
A Black Lady Sketch Show
We’re just going to let you know there is not a funnier show on television than A Black Lady Sketch Show. Between Robin Thede’s brilliant Haddassah, the Black lady courtroom and “Wigzard of Oz,” there is no aspect of Black women’s lives not hilariously lampooned and understood by this show. Thede, Ashley Nicole Black, Gabrielle Dennis, Skye Townsend and Laci Mosley are so funny that the show almost took down TV legacy Saturday Night Live at the Emmys. Every single character is unique, memorable and fall off the bed funny. We love every minute of every episode.
A Black Lady Sketch Show is available on HBO Max.
12 / 12