20 legendary Black science fiction actors who rocked the genre

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Samuel L. Jackson

Listen, I’ve got to count being eaten by a genetically engineered super shark as science fiction. I’m sure if you asked Samuel L. Jackson himself – and, assuming he had the time and the inclination to give you an honest answer – he would agree. But, being shark bait in Deep Blue Sea isn’t Jackson’s only role in the realm of science fiction acting.

Where to start? We might land at the Avengers films and beyond, where Jackson plays Nick Fury, secret agent and head of S.H.I.E.L.D. Surely, stories populated by superhumans, aliens, interdimensional beings, and huge flying crafts known as “helicarriers” qualify as science fiction. I mean, when you’re trying to keep the Hulk from crashing his big, green, mutated body through said helicarrier, as Director Fury tries to do in the first Avengers movie, it certainly feels like science fiction.

Then, there’s Sphere, the 1998 film that includes Jackson as a member of the team that investigates the eponymous alien sphere sitting at the bottom of the ocean. No, Sphere is not an especially good movie, but it does involve a three-centuries-old spacecraft and Jackson trying to battle the psychological warfare initiated (maybe) by an alien intelligence.

If you go further back in time, Jackson also turned in a memorable supporting performance as chief engineer John Arnold in Jurassic Park. Apparently, his role as the laconic, ultra-competent, and delightfully grumpy Arnold was going to be quite a bit bigger. That also meant it was going to be a lot gorier.

Yeah, but you’re here for Star Wars again, aren’t you? Jackson played Jedi Master Mace Windu, an ultra-serious knight with a purple lightsaber. Too bad he didn’t get the script he deserved and was stuck as a wooden character in the much-derided Star Wars prequels.