5 Underrated Black Actors and Actresses Who Deserve Their Due

Shar Jackson stared in Moesha, but she has not  gotten many roles since.

lukeford.net via Creative Commons

Shar Jackson stared in “Moesha,” but she has not gotten many roles since.

Alana Thompson, Staff Writer

In many different careers, it is hard to gain recognition as a black person. Black people have to work a lot harder to achieve goals that would not be as hard to achieve for people of other races. So it is our duty as the public to give credit where credit is due, and in some cases overdue. We need to shine a light on those who were not lucky enough to gain the fame and recognition they deserved for the shows and movies they put so much hard work into.  

1. Deon Richmond  

Deon Richmond was a known child and teen actor in the late ’90s and early 2000s. When he was eleven, Richmond took on the role of Kenny on the hit 90s show “The Cosby Show.” Kenny was the best friend of Rudy, the youngest child of Cliff Huxtable, the show’s main character. Richmond became a regular cast member during the last two seasons of the show. After “The Cosby Show” came to an end in 1992, he joined the cast of “Sister Sister” during its final two seasons, where he played the role of Jordan Bennett, the boyfriend of one of the main characters, Tamera Campbell.  

In “The Cosby Show,” he showed his talent for making you laugh at the stupid and sometimes rude things his character says. When playing as Kenny, Richmond was able to take the gravity away from serious topics like sexism. In the show, Kenny makes various sexist comments that he says he learned from his older brother, though when he makes these comments instead of becoming angry or annoyed, you couldn’t help but laugh.  This is because Kenny does not say it in a rude manner, but in a way, that shows he simply thinks these remarks are fact, even though the remarks are completely wrong. Also, he gives the other characters room to react to his comments and dismiss them showing how the Cosby family does not agree with them in any way. 

During his time acting on “Sister Sister” Richmond learned how to balance the different sides of Jordan Bennett’s character, who could be both serious and funny at different times. Jordan is introduced in the show as the chief editor of the school’s high school newspaper. Due to this, Jordan is very serious for most of his first episode, trying to get Tamera to turn in her newspaper and do her best work. Though by the end of the episode, Jordan shows another side of him when he tells Tamera that he likes her and he asks her to dance. After that episode, Jordan continues to switch between his serious and goofy sides throughout the rest of the show. Richmond also managed to play the role well when playing very awkward scenes. Sometimes when an actor or actress plays a character with awkward scenes that are supposed to convey the weirdness of the character, they just make their audience cringe, but Richmond found a way to make the awkwardness funny. 

2. Alexis Fields

You may or may not know of Alexis Fields. If you do, it is probably because you’ve heard of her mother, Chip Fields, or her older sister, Kim Fields, both well-known actresses from roles spanning from the 70s to as recent as 2022. (Chip Fields is known for her role as Lynetta Gordan on the show “Good Times,” while her oldest daughter is known for her role as Regine Hunter on the show “Living Single” and Regina Upshaw on the Netflix show “The Upshaws.”)

Sadly, Alexis is not as widely known for her own efforts. Fields have only played a few different roles, two of her most known being Diavian Johnson on the show “Sister Sister” and Alicia on the show “Moesha.” Diavian Johnson is a close friend of the two main characters of “Sister Sister,” Tia and Tamera while Alicia serves as the rival of the main character in the final two seasons of “Moesha.” 

In just these two roles alone, Fields showed her amazing range. She went from playing the best friend to the bully: Diavian Johnson is a very loyal friend to the main characters of “Sister Sister,” while Alicia is a jealous, lying, bully. Not to mention that “Sister Sister” and “Moesha” were both on air around the same time, so Fields had to switch between the two characters constantly, which is a prime example of how easy it was for her to shift between characters with extremely different personalities and backgrounds. There is a good chance that Fields would be a star by now if she wasn’t trapped in the shadow of her family.

3. Shar Jackson

Shar Jackson was a popular actress in her teenage years. Like Fields, she played a role in the hit 90s show “Moesha,” but unlike Fields, she played a major role throughout the entirety of the series. Jackson played the role of Niecy Jackson, the best friend of Moesha, the main character of the show. Sadly after the show “Moesha” came to an end, her career as an actress did not become as successful as she might have hoped. 

Jackson has an incredible talent for acting. She managed to grow and develop the character in the show while she was also growing and changing herself. Jackson always managed to make me laugh during every episode, even bringing humor into serious and sometimes emotional scenes.

In season 5, episode 14, Moesha and her family learn that Dorian, a cousin who is staying with them, is not her cousin at all but her younger brother whom her father never told them about. After learning this information, Moesha leaves her house and goes to a cafe that is a frequent hangout for her and her friends, she sits down at a table with her friend Hakeem who has something to tell her while she is already upset about something. When Jackson’s character Niecy realizes that Moesha is upset she proceeds to misinterpret the situation and walks up to the table saying “boy what did you say to her?” accusing Hakeem of upsetting Moesha. Though this is a simple, short line I believe that Jackson’s delivery of the line added a lot to the scene.

Shows that use little splashes of comedy during serious conversations are in my opinion the best kinds of shows. Jackson contributed so much to the show and I believe that if she was given the chance she could help to make another show just as great.

4. Kelly Perine

Kelly Perine is an actor known for small roles spanning from the late 90s to the 2010s. You may know him as Duane Odell Knofx on the show “One on One.”  Duane is the best friend of the main character Flex Washington. Though his acting performance during this show was excellent, Perine was unable to obtain any more roles on shows that grew to be as big as “One on One.” Perine’s acting in the show was very rarely serious or emotional but in my opinion, that was what made his character so great. 

In any situation, you could always count on Perine to make you laugh. In episode 2 of the first season of “One on One” Duane is giving the main character Flex Washington advice on raising his 14-year-old daughter who just came to live with him. During the conversation, Duane tells Flex a random saying that was apparently said by the Cherokees. Flex responds “And that’s supposed to help me?”, Duane replies “Man, I don’t have kids, I don’t know what to say to you.”

The writing of a joke is important but the delivery of the joke is what really sells it. In my opinion, Perine’s deliveries of these jokes are always excellent. There are many scenes like this where Perine slips in a bit of comedy during serious conversations. This is one of the many reasons why I grew to love “One on One.” Perine was also very compatible with the leads so their humor always worked together. Perine is clearly a very talented actor who was just never truly given a chance to become a known actor, I for one believe that it’s not too late to rectify this.

5. Karyn Parsons 

Karyn Parsons is most known for her role as Hilary Banks on the hit 90s show “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” Hilary is the ditzy cousin of the main character Will Smith. After the show came to an end in 1996, Parsons found it hard to get another role as significant and successful as that of Hilary. 

Parsons found a good way to balance Hilary’s ditziness with her occasional wisdom. She also found a way to truly become the character as you can tell by the way she acted as the older and caring sister to her co-stars. In season 6 episode 7, Ashley Banks (the youngest of the Banks siblings) asks Hilary if she can talk to her about something important. The two sit down and Ashley asks her sister if she’s ever been in love, and Ashley tells her that she believes that she is in love with her current boyfriend even though they would have to be in a long-distance relationship. During this conversation, Parsons easily shifts between giving wisdom and showing her dizziness. 

Parsons was also able to show Hilary’s growth throughout the show. Hilary goes from being a college dropout relying on her parents for financial support to being a woman in the workforce by working as a weather girl at the local news station. Parsons was able to still show Hilary’s flaws and her quirks while also showing the pros of her growth throughout the show.    


All five of these people have shown their incredible acting talent but have yet to be truly acknowledged for it. If we recognize them here, hopefully, this will help these actors and many actors like them to further their careers.