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Hollywood's Up-and-Coming Black Actors

Jurnee Smollett
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February is Black History Month, and right now two African-American actors are Oscars front-runners (we're talking about you, Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer). Plus, the talented and beautiful Adepero Oduye and Paula Patton were included in Vanity Fair's annual Young Hollywood issue -- which is usually all white.

In keeping with the props bestowed upon Hollywood's black performers this month, we present 13 black actors (and a bonus couple of pop stars transitioning to film) whose names you should memorize now, because we're predicting big things, juicy roles and long careers for all of them.

Nicole Beharie

Nicole Beharie
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Who She Is: The half-Nigerian, half-Jamaican beauty had a pivotal supporting role as the only woman Michael Fassbender actually wants to woo (and not just have sex with) in Steve McQueen's acclaimed drama "Shame." A graduate of Juilliard's prestigious drama program (where she received a scholarship named for fellow alum Robin Williams), the stage-and-screen actress also stars in the interracial romance "My Last Day Without You," which debuted at the Cannes Film Festival.
Where You'll See Her: The T.D. Jakes drama "Woman Thou Art Loosed: On the 7th Day" in April and the football drama "The Last Fall."

Chadwick Boseman

Chadwick Boseman
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Who He Is: Boseman is an actor, screenwriter and producer who has had recurring roles on daytime television -- on the soap "All My Children" -- and primetime dramas like "Persons Unknown" and "Lincoln Heights." But all of that is secondary to the fact he beat out dozens of interested actors to land the iconic role of Jackie Robinson in the upcoming biopic "42," which also stars Harrison Ford. Not bad for his first big film.
Where You'll See Him: He stars in the Iraq War drama "The Kill Hole," and then he'll don the Dodgers uniform for "42," which has yet to start filming.

John Boyega

John Boyega
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Who He Is: The British-Nigerian actor isn't a household name yet, but if his debut role in the alien-invasion thriller "Attack the Block" is any indication, he's going to have a bright future playing fierce characters. In "Attack the Block" Boyega plays Moses, an inner-city gang leader-turned-alien killer in a performance critics hailed as "absolutely riveting."
Where You'll See Him: Based on the strength of "Attack the Block," Boyega landed a plum leading role in Spike Lee's upcoming HBO boxing drama "Da Brick."

Solomon Glave

Solomon Glave
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Who He Is: Another emerging British actor (they sure know how to produce good ones over there), 14-year-old Glave gave a breakout performance as the young Heathcliff in Andrea Arnold's adaptation of "Wuthering Heights." That's right, Arnold's interpretation offers an interracial twist on the Emily Bronte classic; and Glave and his older counterpart James Howson are the first black actors to ever play the role of Heathcliff -- at least on screen.
Where You'll See Him: "Wuthering Heights" debuted in the States at the Sundance Film Festival and will hopefully arrive at an art-house theater near you some time this year.

Lance Gross

Lance Gross
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 Who He Is: If he looks familiar, perhaps you're a fan of Tyler Perry's sitcom "House of Payne" or saw the interracial wedding comedy "Our Family Wedding," in which Gross plays America Ferrera's hunky fiancé. But Gross has the looks and the chops to play a leading man, and he gets his shot as a former NFL player in "The Last Fall."
Where You'll See Him: In addition to "The Last Fall," Gross will appear in the basketball drama "Phenom" and the upcoming Perry project "The Marriage Counselor" (in theaters this July).

Michael B. Jordan

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Who He Is: It's hard to find a TV fan who doesn't have a soft spot for Jordan from his roles on "The Wire," "Friday Night Lights," or the second season of "Parenthood." While he's popped up in a handful of films, this year brings back-to-back roles that should propel Jordan to the kind of heights expected from someone with his auspicious name.
Where You'll See Him: He was the rookie member of the Tuskegee Airmen in "Red Tails," and is one of the three leads in the year's coolest movie so far: "Chronicle," about a trio of high-school buddies who acquire superpowers under extraordinary circumstances.

Adepero Oduye

Adepero Oduye
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Who She Is: Remember at the Golden Globes, when Meryl Streep mentioned all the fabulous female performances of the year and said a name you didn't recognize? That would be Adepero, whose touching portrayal of a young lesbian in "Pariah" not only earned her kudos from the venerable Streep but also the kind of glowing reviews most actors twice her age have yet to receive.
Where You'll See Her: With her résumé of independent features and shorts, we hope a director like Peter Hedges or Michael Hoffman will cast her in another leading role.

Dayo Okeniyi

Dayo Okeniyi
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Who He Is: Nigerians continue to represent in Hollywood! A newcomer to the industry, Okeniyi won a casting call for Thresh, the male District 11 Tribute to the Hunger Games. Thresh is a big, scary dude on the page, so expect to be blown away by Okeniyi's size and warrior-like skills. Thresh is more brawn than brains, but we expect "Hunger Games" to launch Okeniyi's career.
Where You'll See Him: In less than 50 days, Okeniyi will play the fearsome Thresh. Then he headlines the ensemble teen horror flick "Slew Hampshire," which, as the title suggests, follows a bunch of murders in New Hampshire.

Nate Parker

Nate Parker
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Who He Is: We'd say Parker is possibly the second coming of Denzel -- except, well, Washington is still alive. Washington actually gave his young doppelganger his first leading role in "The Great Debaters." After six years of steady work, 2012 looks like Parker's year to graduate to bigger and better roles.
Where You'll See Him: He's the main character in the Tukegee Airmen drama "Red Tails," stars opposite Richard Gere and Brit Marling in the Sundance hit "Arbitrage," and appears in Spike Lee's "Red Hook Summer."

Rihanna

Rihanna
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Who She Is: You know, she's that multi-platinum, multiple Grammy-winning pop sensation with the hot bod, taste for tattoos and high-profile dating habits. She's the reason you can't say the words "SOS" or "umbrella" without launching into song.
Where You'll See Her: You can find her in any glossy magazine or celebrity gossip site; but on the big screen you'll see her in the mega-budgeted popcorn flick "Battleship" this summer. RiRi in fatigues? We don't know about you, but we can't wait to see if she can be someone other than Rihanna the pop star. If she can, she should have an easy transition to making movies whenever she's in between albums. If she can't, well, even Mariah Carey still got a bit part in "Precious," post-"Glitter."

Jurnee Smollett

Jurnee Smollett
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Who She Is: A former child actor, Smollett had a starring role in Denzel Washington's "The Great Debaters," but she transitioned to TV to join the cast of the beloved football series "Friday Night Lights" and then the CBS legal drama "The Defenders." Now the 25-year-old actress with the doe eyes and bright smile is finally heading back to film.
Where You'll See Her: We've been waiting patiently for Smollett to return to the big screen so that we could add her to this list. She's in Tyler Perry's ensemble drama "The Marriage Counselor."

Jordin Sparks

Jordin Sparks
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Who She Is: Most audiences know Sparks from the radio or from her winning season on "American Idol." But the 22-year-old "Idol" champ is ready to "Sparkle" in the titular role of director Salim Akil's ("Jumping the Broom") new musical drama – about an act of three sisters who are torn apart by the pressures and vices of fame.
Where You'll See Her: "Sparkle," costarring Derek Luke, Mike Epps, Carmen Ejogo and pop diva Whitney Houston, hits theaters on Aug. 10.

Amandla Stenberg

Amanda Stenberg
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Who She Is: Stenberg is a lucky girl indeed. The 13-year-old actress, who recently played a young Zoe Saldana in "Colombiana," landed the much-coveted role of Rue in "The Hunger Games." For those unfamiliar with the plot, Rue is the only fellow Hunger Games Tribute that Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) completely trusts. The two form a tight bond that should offer some of the best and most poignant scenes in the movie.
Where You'll See Her: On March 23, Stenberg will have her moment to shine as the lovely District 11 Tribute in "The Hunger Games." After that, the odds should be in her favor.

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