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The Brothers of Summer

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With the new tv show Undercovers premiering next month, starring the already oft-mentioned Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who I know best at Freema Agyeman’s (#1 on my ‘Wifey List’) sister on Dr. Who, and pretty-boy extraordinaire Boris Kodjoe, I thought I’d focus on what seems to be, in a good way, a proliferation of Black men on tv shows lately. Although these guys are supporting characters, they’re playing some pretty intense roles and putting forth some great comedic and dramatic performances.  Though none of these are network shows like Undercovers, they are often better (and sometimes better performing) than those.

coby bell - burnnotice1Coby Bell on BURN NOTICE

Coby Bell has been working non-stop for the past decade. First as a rookie cop on Third Watch, then as team captain & starting running back Jason Pitts on The Game and now as the first cast addition since the show started three years ago – and one of my Top 10 of the past few years – Burn Notice, as ex spy Jesse Porter who unintentionally got burned (discredited and dismissed out of the spy game) by the super-ex spy himself Michael Westen, show star Jeffrey Donovan.  While I feel Bell showed a lot more range on the excellently written comedy The Game, he gets to do action along with smarts, much differently from his cop show days, on Burn Notice which could potentially open some doors for him.  The first half of Season 4 just ended, but watch the reruns and look for Bell and Burn Notice to return early next year.

Aldis-HodgeAldis Hodge on LEVERAGE

Whereas other actors on this list get to flex more physical chops, Hodge is the resident computer hacker on Leverage, playing the orange soda guzzling Hardison. Although he plays a criminal, he’s somewhat reformed and half-way on the side of the angels on a team of con men helping people in serious need or retribution.  A fun show in itself, unlike the rest of his cohorts who are straight-up thieves, hitters or grifters, Hodge it seems was only a criminal for fun and not (solely) for profit and so he gets to play a lighter and thankfully smarter side along show star, Oscar nominated Timothy Hutton.  I’d personally love to get Aldis Hodge to play the star of the screenplay I’m working on as he has a charm that’s hard to match. He’s one to watch.

Quick Trivia: Hodge was actually cast in The Game as Derwin and appeared in the show it was conveniently spun-off from, Girlfriends, as that character but was replaced by Pooch Hall when the actual show went into production.

Larenz Tate & Daniel Sunjata on RESCUE MElarenz tate-daniel sunjata

Both grossly underrated talents, both of these brothers have been in hit movies and as recognizable television talent for sometime now.

Tate is more recognizable in the African-American community in fan favorite movies such as the ‘ hood drama Menace II Society, family favorite The Inkwell, as Frankie Lymon in Why Do Fools Fall in Love and in, of course, Love Jones.  Definitely a star of the 1990’s, he’s seemed to have issues getting good roles in the millennium having co-starred in some arguably okay movies as Biker Boyz (which I’m in the minority of truly enjoying) and A Man Apart (which most no one enjoyed).  When Tate first appeared as Shawn in Rescue Me two seasons ago, as a guest star fireman from another ‘house’ that the crew wanted to join their house because he could help them win a basketball championship, I was excited to see the brother on screen again, especially in a show that’s one of my faves (I seem to have a lot of favorites, I know, but Rescue Me really is up there – at least it used to be).  See, I’ve always felt a kinship toward Larenz Tate. We’re the same age and I remember seeing him guest appear on various shows as a child actor, finally getting his due at about 15-16 years of age in The Royal Family, which was poised as a hit for CBS – then star Redd Foxx died.  Following that, he starred in South Central, FOX’s ‘experimental’ show about life in the hood of Los Angeles…and the show that turned Tate into a star.  So seeing this young brother grow literally, and skill-wise, always made me proud.  All the sycophancy aside, I’m kinda disappointed in what his character on Rescue Me has grown into.  He used to have a lot of bravado (see: balls) but in the past season of the show he has gotten soft.  Really soft.  The crew has even resorted to calling him Black Shawn, since there was already another Shawn on the show, something that the character first presented to us NEVER would’ve put up with.  I’m well aware characters and roles change along time, but this isn’t working for me.

Daniel Sunjata has been on the show since the beginning though.  He plays Puerto Rican firefighter Franco Rivera, the lothario and definitely the smoothest of the crew.  So why am I mentioning him on S&A?  Well, I’ve got it on good authority that he recognizes himself as a brother, and this is from a trusted source.  He can play race-ambiguous too, which I’m sure has landed him a lot of gigs when coming up.  Sunjata’s Franco truly is a man whore, and he has a lot of fun with the role.  Probably best recently known for co-starring in The Devil Wore Prada, but most notably to the S&A audience as Langston Hughes in Rodney Evans’ Brother To Brother and as homerun hitter Reggie Jackson in the mini-series The Bronx is Burning, he’s also appeared in The Feast of All Saints and as well as a recurring medical expert on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.  As Franco, he’s gotten an opportunity to be more than a man whore, but a recurring theme of this show is people that put their lives on the line daily and have to live up to their vices to deal with that pain.  It’s a show that when you look past the surface can get very deep, which is why I wish the writers would give Tate more to play off of.  Maybe they will soon, though the show only has one more season to go. Rent the past few season on Netflix (or wherever) to see how Tate’s character has changed and how brilliantly Sunjata plays Franco.

Rescue Me has its season finale next Tuesday on FX at 10pm.

Omari Hardwick on DARK BLUEOmARI HARDWICK

Of all the shows listed I’m the most unfamiliar with this one (even I can’t watch every episode of everything) but I am familiar with Hardwick’s work as he’s been in a number of movies the past two years and he also appeared on a previous TNT show, SAVED, with Tom Everett Scott a few years back.  He was the straight man to Scott’s goofy, irresponsible character on that show and gets to be a lot more mischievous as undercover detective Ty Curtis on DARK BLUE.  Okay, I know being an undercover cop isn’t a ‘playful’ job, and this show isn’t a comedy or anything, but getting to play different characters while ‘on the job’ gives all the actors on the show a nice way to avoid the rut that many other ensemble cop shows run.

Hardwick has that leading man look that Boris Kodjoe, I suppose except the height and the light-skinned-ness, but doesn’t come off as having too much pretense to him.  Whether that’s good or bad in Hollywood I can’t call but he’s a good actor so I hope it works for him.

Corey Reynolds and Robert Gossett on THE CLOSER

I think of all the dudes on this list that Corey Reynolds has the easiest to like character, Det. Sgt. David Gabriel, the non-official right-hand man of Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson (show star Kyra Sedgwick) on The Closer.  Yes, another cop show, but not exactly as a procedural as other popular ones on the air and with a subtle amount of comic relief from a majority of the characters.   Yet Sgt. Gabriel is the most straight-laced of the crew, yet not stodgy, and often offers the most sensible point of view.  Reynolds brings a big brother feel to the character, but is by no means a spirit-less ‘asexual Black man’ as evidenced by his brief yet ultimately tragic relationship with former squad member Det. Irene Daniels, the extra-sexy Gina Ravera (Soul Food, Showgirls).

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Robert Gossett on the other hand, as the egotistical and conniving Commander Taylor has great bite to him.  Primarily a theater actor and cousin of, yes, Louis Gossett Jr., this Gossett has mostly been seen by the public-at-large in guest appearances on tv show roles before The Closer began yet hit the floor running with mechanizations of taking away Chief Johnson’s top spot from her.  He’d make a terrific villain based on his performance on this show, yet lately, much like the show itself, he’s suffering from stagnation.  The writers don’t know what to do with his character so he’s seen kind of bumbling about in the background with only three or five lines an episode.  A real shame actually since a power struggle within the LAPD would provide a fascinating dynamic on the show.

The Closer airs Mondays at 9pm on TNT.

lee-thompson-young

Lee Thompson Young on RIZZOLI & ISLES

Yes, okay, this is the LAST cop show that I’ll mention here; its funny how police and doctor shows still are television’s (and advertisers) most popular shows.  This one, TNT’s stock in trade, focuses on women in law enforcement (see Amazing Grace and the aforementioned The Closer) with Lee Thompson Young playing the rookie member on the Homicide Squad. One of our writers asked months ago whatever happened to Young…well here he is.

Best known on the Disney show The Famous Jett Jackson, Young is all grown up (beard and all) as Detective Barry Frost and uses the most of the somewhat limited time he has on screen.  The great thing about the show is that Young isn’t relegated to the background and is relied upon for his alternate observations (TNT shows actually do a good job overall on utilizing all of their characters).  He really does still have a star quality to him and it’d be good for someone to make even better use of his talent…maybe on the silver screen?

Jahmil French on DEGRASSI: THE NEXT GENERATIONjahmil -degrassi-dave-02

And speaking of teen shows, here’s one of the most popular ones – still running after ten years on the air and more cast changes than Law & Order.  Yes, I do watch Degrassi, I admit it, I’ve been a fan since its previous incarnations in the late 80’s, Degrassi Junior High & Degrassi High.  Two of the young ladies that recently starred on the show, Shanae Grimes and Nina Dobrev, have graduated as the leads to CW shows 90210 and the The Vampire Dairies, respectively, and hip-hop star Drake (real name Aubrey Graham)  is an alum as well. Since I ended my cable service years ago, I fell off of this show until recently and they actually have some great new talent on it.

The stand-out, in my opinion, is Jahmil French as the wise-cracking, quick to impress others Dave.  With a cool demeanor and good character development into confident young man, his character has become one of the show’s recent leaders. Check out Degrassi on Teen Nick and look out for this young actor.   The summer season ends this week (today I believe) but it replays a lot, so check out French doing his thing.

22 comments to The Brothers of Summer

  • happybrowngirl

    Enjoyed this roundup! Brothers of summer, indeed! This is why I love TNT, USA and FX. Great shows with eye candy that can act.

    I still dig Dule Hill of Psych but the show is not that good anymore

    As for Degrassi, loved all its incarnations, but I let it go when they cut loose Aubrey Graham’s cohort for this new one. I felt old enough watching his gen. This latest one is just too too young, lol, but nice to see they still keep at least 1-2 brothers in rotation.

    and lol@ feeling the need explain Sunjata’s presence on the list. Was there ever a doubt he’s a brother, lol!

    • I love those stations too HBG! I think there’s been some doubt that Sunjata’s a brother especially since his most noticeable role is on Rescue Me as a Latino. Dule Hill is very recognizable, I think, so I left out Psych (which I havent’ seen all year anyway) and Memphis Blues as well since in every ep I’ve seen (all 3) the brother doesn’t do much. I feel you on Degrassi. It’s good non-thinking tv though.

  • Thanks Curtis! But damn, where do you find the time to watch all these shows? And can I borrow/buy some of it? Seriously!

    I’m just now trying to catch up on Season 2 of “Mad Men.”

    By the way, a new face you might add to your list (or maybe your “The Brothers of Fall”) post, is Reggie Austin, who has just been cast as Vanessa L. Williams’ husband on the seventh season of “Desperate Housewives.”

    • Well some of these I either download and/or watch online at my leisure OR watch it at a place I can’t mention but at which I spend eight hours a day 4-5 days a week (LOL). The Closer and Rescue Me are must-see-tv for me though, along with Mad Men – I never miss an episode.

      Brothers of the Fall…I like that. Unfortunately I can’t think of too many brothers in the lineups this Fall.

  • dvdgirl

    You forgot Joe Morton on sci-fi’s Eureka. He plays scientist Henry Deacon.

  • This is a great write-up, Curtis! I caught an episode of “Leverage” where Aldis Hodge played the violin, and he was pretty good! All these brothers are talented.

  • ShamWOW

    Dule Hill is awesome and Psych is still a brilliant show. He’s actually had quite a bit more comedic legroom this season.

  • Tee

    Love “The Brothers of Summer.” It was a pleasant read. Can we have the “The Sisters of Summer”?

    Also I was trying to explain to my friend why I like Degrassi, and I will use the term “good non-thinking tv”

    Thanks Curtis!

    • That’s the thing Tee, there aren’t too many ‘Sisters of Summer,’ (Salli Richardson on Eureka, Rutina Wesley on True Blood, Essence Atkins on Are We There Yet, um… do Tyler Perry show people count?) however, there are a greater number of them in the Fall season, much more than the brothers – looks like that’ll be my follow-up!

      Speaking of sisters and Degrassi, they do absolutely nothing with the sister on that show (not that I’ve seen at least, tell me if I’m wrong)…she’s gotten like one storyline ever, and that wasn’t even continuous.

  • Aldis Hodge definitely has that Anthony Mackie vibe going on about him.

  • I know I didn’t mention Nelsan Ellis from True Blood either, but that’s mainly because that show is ultra-popular while some of these others have more of a devoted or niche audience.

    Just realized I missed this one dude, Lyric Bent from Rookie Blue. But, I can’t really talk about a show I’ve never watched and have no desire to (no offense Mr. Bent).

  • I’m glad somebody else has noticed the talents of Coby Bell and Aldis Hodge. Especially Coby Bell. He’s been amazing on Burn Notice, and he seems to get a lot of hate from people just because they can’t adjust to the show with one more person on it. Frankly, he’s a big part of why the show is so amazing this season!

  • Patra Reynolds-Brown

    I enjoyed this. I am a big fan of The Closer since day one and always loved how Corey Reynolds has played Sergeant Gabriel and his relationship with Chief Johnson. You know you are a big TV watching nerd when you know character names ROTFL!

    I also really enjoy Omari Hardwick in Dark Blue and I don’t understand why nobody nor his mother watches that show. The first season was excellent. There was a great relationship with Omari’s character Ty and his wife played by a drop deader named Meta Golding who I see on so many shows. I was disappointed when they had them divorce this season. I guess they want him to be able to sow his oats so to speak. But i for one really liked the black love relationship they had.

    This is a very good article.

    • Patra Reynolds-Brown

      Oh and I must thank you for including the very wonderful Daniel Sunjata. He is the cat’s meow for an old, proud spinster like me – ROTFL.

  • Brittany…Yeah, people did really hate him for a minute but if you read certain blogs most have started to like him toward the last few episodes. Truth, he was kinda jerky at the beginning, intentionally though. Burn Notice was much better this season than last.

    Patra…I’m two episodes behind on Dark Blue…didn’t know they divorced! Anyway, they were building toward that, no big surprise. I’ve seen Meta Golding around for a while too. She’s got talent, for sure, though no more work on the show unfortunately. I think Dark Blue is on at a bad time…I didn’t even catch it on the original run. I’m loving Tricia Helfer on there as well…who also was a great recurring star on Burn Notice last year. As for Sunjata, you must’ve loved those episodes with Susan Sarandon and his character’s daughter…that was actually his best storyline.

  • Geneva Girl

    Small correction: Timothy Hutton wasn’t just nominated for an Academy Award; he won. He won for best supporting actor for Ordinary People.

  • happybrowngirl

    Can I just say I did sneak through here once more to take a looksee at the lovely brotha collage! Too bad Alimi Ballard of Numbers (excuse me, Numb3rs, lol) isn’t on something right now to add to the list. Saw him at the Crawfish Shack in Atlanta earlier this week and he’s got some brotha flash to him!

  • M. Elizabeth

    I would like to add a name to your list. Collins Pennie who play Marcus Leed on HawthoRNe. He also appeared in remake of Prom Night.

    • I didn’t know they finally had a Black man on that show. Thanks Elizabeth, I’ll check the brother out. I’ve tried watching Hawthorne a few times the previous season but I’m not feeling it. It’s not that Jada is bad (she really isn’t), I actually like a few of the actors on that show and meant to check it out this year now that Vanessa Bell Calloway is on it, but the writing’s a bit weak for me.

      • Sabrina

        Season 2 of HawthoRNe was much better than Season 1!! We’re all waiting to see if there will be a Season 3. It’s worth a second look.