Late last week, Shadow and Act reported that rapper Common has been cast in a remake of the 1977 classic romcom, The Man Who Loved Women. While we’re certain the film’s title aptly describes the lyricist, we have our doubts about his ability to headline the film. After all, we’ve seen him take a crack at romantic comedy before–and we all know how that turned out…. He’s alluded to his desire to win an Oscar in more than a few of his more recent tracks, so it’s nice that he’s taking acting classes and trying to get better. But letting him headline a flick based on a beloved ’70s film might be too much, too soon.
Now, I love Common. So I’m-a let him finish, but while I wait, I’ve started thinking about other actors I’d much rather see take on a romantic comedy–dramatic brothers, who actually pursued acting as their first vocation (not as a back-up career for when they age out of the rap game). Here are my picks:
1. Denzel Washington
I know Denzel’s an obvious choice here, but he’s also a great one. While it’s likely that the revered thespian has kept his distance from strictly romantic roles to avoid being typecast for sex appeal, we know he can pull them off. In 1990’s Mississippi Masala, he scorched the screen with Sarita Choudhury and made us believe their love was worth losing a business, staring down years of family prejudice, and being run out of town. He’s also often paired with wives and girlfriends in his dramatic and action roles, and no matter how underwritten the women are, he’s effortless at making audiences believe he loves them.
I think it’s about time for him to put anti-heroes, misanthropes, and biographical figures on hold to just sex it up with someone hot for a change.
2. Don Cheadle
Though Cheadle is best known for his dramatic work, he’s showcased more than a few times his impeccable comic timing. Who doesn’t still rave over him as Mouse in Devil in a Blue Dress? Who doesn’t perk up for his brief cameo in Rush Hour 2? Who didn’t love his delivery in Topdog/Underdog? He also pulls off romantic chemistry with nearly all his costars. I’d love to see him get an opportunity to set aside the weightier matters of war, genocide, terrorism, and race, just to get his love and happiness on.
3. Chiwetel Ejiofor
Ejiofor last worked in romantic comedy when he appeared as one of many stars in the holiday ensemble piece, Love Actually. He was woefully underused there, as the poor schmuck who married Keira Knightley, just as she’s discovering his best friend is in love with her (and let’s face it: though it didn’t happen onscreen, you know she was eventually gonna skip town with that dude). Apparently, he also got a crack at a romcom with Woody Allen’s Melinda and Melinda in 2004, but as part of another ensemble cast, he didn’t get top billing. What I propose for him is a film about his relationship with some equally fabulous underused actress, where obstacles are overcome and hilarity ensues (because he’s gorgeous when he’s laughing).
4. Michael B. Jordan
Because he’s so strong a serious actor, most of Michael B. Jordan’s limited romantic work has resulted in break-up, misery, and/tears. And because he’s strong an actor in general, I’d love to see him get a crack at a role where he falls in love for the first time–and not as escape from drug culture or poverty. Jordan has already proven he has the romantic goods opposite Jurnee Smollett in Friday Night Lights and Sarah Ramos in Parenthood. All he needs now is an opportunity to showcase his skills on the big screen in a lead role, without the burden of overcoming a dark, teary past.
5. Nate Parker
On the basis of his brief onscreen relationship with Jurnee Smollett in the Denzel-directed Great Debaters alone, I’m confident Nate Parker is ready to sizzle on the silver screen in a starring role with some up-and-comer. Since his specialty seems to be period pieces, why not a Harlem Renaissance-themed romcom, where he gets to wear another hard part in his hair and high-waisted pants with suspenders? He really looks great in high-waisted pants with suspenders….
Who’d make your list of black actors who’ve been underused in romantic comedy roles?