20 legendary Black science fiction actors who rocked the genre

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Alfre Woodard

What would you do if you were caught in the aftermath of a vicious worldwide war? What if you were a rocket scientist working off the grid? What if a hostile alien group like the Borg appeared out of nowhere and tried to take you and your collaborator out for no discernible reason? If it were me, I’d probably fall to pieces. But, if you’re Lily Sloane, you take it in stride.

We’re actually talking about a character played by big-time actress Alfre Woodard in Star Trek: First Contact, arguably the best of the movies featuring the Star Trek: The Next Generation crew. Woodard has since become a huge star for her work both on film and television, including roles in work like Luke Cage, Desperate Housewives, and a brief but very memorable scene in 12 Years a Slave.

Her 1996 role as Lily Sloane clearly earns her a spot on this list. On the surface of it, Sloane is an assistant to Zefram Cochrane, a scientist who would eventually go down in history as the first human to invent warp drive, enabling faster-than-light travel throughout the galaxy. As we see it in Star Trek: First Contact, however, Cochrane is a real mess. He’s a brilliant engineer, sure, but he’s also a work-shy drunk. It doesn’t help that the crew of the Enterprise show up and scare him off by telling him what a big deal he’s going to be (way to spill the beans, guys).

Sloane gets freaked out, too, especially when Captain Picard takes her onto the ship and they have to evade the frightening and assimilation-hungry Borg. Though she’s initially hostile, believing the crew to be hostile agents from another region, she eventually believes that they are there to help, with no fainting or hysterics whatsoever.

Not only that, but she was able to talk sense into Picard himself when he started having aggressive flashbacks to his own Borg assimilation. Between that and managing Cochrane, not to mention her own work, Sloane deserves far more attention. Alfre Woodard, at least, brought some real acting cred to her portrayal.